Guild celebrates 40 years of giving

Four Sequim Dungeness Hospital Guild thrift shop volunteers take a break. They include (from left) Cabrini Gamache, Lila French, Shari Miller and Sue Staples.

For 40 years, volunteers with the Sequim Dungeness Hospital Guild have been a key source of funds for doctors, EMTs and aspiring health care workers across the county.

They're also quite shrewd businesswomen, even if they don't draw a paycheck.

The guild's thrift shop, an inconspicuous structure nestled downtown at Bell Street and Second Avenue, is one of Sequim's more unexpected financial successes.

When the original thrift shop opened in the 1980s, says guild publicity chairman Addie Curtis, guild members boasted that during the first month of operation they cleared more than $1,000.

Now, Curtis says, the little shop clears more than $1,000 in one good day.

All told, the guild has racked up about $1.7 million. And every penny goes to help the Port Angeles hospital, Fire District 3's medics, students studying to be in the health care field or some other local health care entity.

"They really are a fantastic bunch of ladies and work so hard for the community," says Curtis.

Three of the four original founders - Margaret Lotzgesell, Emma Hutchins and Peggy Powell - got together this August to celebrate the group's 40 years - and look ahead to the future.

Jean Janis, president of the Sequim Dungeness Hospital Guild (second from left), joins three of the group’s original members. They are (from left) Peggy Powell, Emma Hutchins and Margaret Lotzgesell. Sequim Gazette photos by Matthew Nash

Seeing a need

The Sequim Dungeness Hospital Guild was established in 1970, but the buildup to create that group began a little earlier. Hutchins moved to the Sequim area in the late 1960s. After being involved with a similar group in Bellevue, she offered to talk with hospital officials in Port Angeles.

"They didn't want us to be volunteers," Hutchins recalls.

"Enough of our husbands have had heart attacks, we wanted to do something on our end (to help).

And help they did. Guild members started hosting luncheons, auctions and then Cards for Cardiacs, a program where players play bridge or pinochle for money and donate those funds back to the guild.

"It was so low-key," Hutchins says.

Low key, perhaps, but effective. During the 1970s, the guild donated funds

and equipment to the hospital to the tune of about $27,000.

The guild added the thrift shop on Bell Street in 1977 (it since has moved) and saw member involvement and funds raised rise exponentially.

When Fire District 3 added emergency medical services in 1982, the guild was there, donating $14,670 to purchase the first medic vehicle and heart monitor. For the district EMS program's first five years, the hospital guild was its lifeblood.

Over the years, whatever the hospital was short of, the guild managed to help out, from Stairmaster machines and treadmill belts in the cardiac rehab facility to tourniquets and stirrups in the emergency room, from bassinets and newborn beds in obstetrics to disaster radios and a $16,000 kidney dialysis machine.

To Fire District 3, donations include more than a half-dozen vehicles, Jaws of Life tool, heart monitors, CPR mannequins and defibrillators.

Since its inception, guild members have supported groups with these funds:

• Olympic Medical Center, with more than $650,000 for equipment and services, including a $10,000 gift last May for construction of a heliport near the Sequim facility on Fifth Avenue

• Fire District 3, with more than $550,000 in equipment and services

• Young men and women in Clallam County, with nearly $430,000 in scholarships to pursue medical training and advanced degrees. Many of those helped have returned to work in Clallam County

• The Peninsula College School of Nursing, with more than $48,000 in scholarship assistance. The effort earned the guild a plaque on the school's donor wall on the Port Angeles campus, and

• The Dungeness Health and Wellness Clinic, $25,000 that aids in distributing medical services and support for those without insurance or means to pay. Audrey Gift, a clinic board member, said more than 1,200 patients are treated at the clinic every year and that number is growing.

Seeking some help

Lotzgesell proudly wears her blue uniform. It's the signature outfit for the Sequim Dungeness Hospital Guild thrift shop volunteers.

She says it never ceases to amaze her the number of out-of-town shoppers who visit the thrift store.

"They come in from everywhere," she says.

With everything from men's and women's clothing to kitchen items, furniture to bicycles and other sports equipment, the thrift shop is "a high-end thrift shop," says guild president Jean Janis.

"Parents pass away and kids don't want that stuff (but) it's pieces of art," Lotzgesell says.

Says Lila French, a thrift store volunteer for about five years, "We have a great change-over; every time I come to work, it's all new stuff."

Janis says the guild thrift store hasn't taken much of a hit from the slumping economy.

"We have a regular clientele," she says. "They know it is quality (merchandise, and that) the money is staying in the community."

The problem, says Curtis, is that despite the 100-member-strong guild, the average age of the volunteers is about 75.

Guild organizers are hoping to see more Sequim-area residents volunteer their time at the store. The thrift store is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday plus some two Saturdays per month. The guild staffs the store two shifts a day (six women to a shift), five days per week and adds additional staffing the first and third Saturday of each month.

"It's a nice way for newcomers to meet people, get involved," Hutchins says. "It's a little like a department store."

Each May the guild hosts a luncheon and fashion show.

In December, guild members host a Christmas luncheon and present the annual gift to Fire District 3.

Reach Michael Dashiell at

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