More volunteers needed to help raise funds for Chilliwack General Hospital – Chilliwack Progress

For decades, a group of volunteers has supported Chilliwack General Hospital by raising funds to purchase medical equipment.

But in 1911, when the Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary started, they were raising money to buy something else – the hospital itself.

Chilliwack’s first hospital officially opened, debt-free, on February 28, 1912, thanks to the Auxiliary and other people and organizations who helped raise funds.

As National Volunteer Week approaches (April 24-30), Auxiliary Members are calling for others to join them so they can continue to support the hospital.

Volunteer and former nurse Debbie Tracey said it gave her something to do in her retirement years.

“I love being back in the hospital and seeing some of the old faces and helping people navigate the hospital,” Tracey said. “Here (in the thrift store) it’s just fun.”

Fellow volunteer Karen Houlden moved from North Vancouver to Chilliwack and didn’t know anyone when she arrived here, so she joined the auxiliary to meet new friends.

Tracey said the women in the auxiliary all cared about each other.

“It’s a kind of brotherhood,” she said.

In addition to running the Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store on Main Street, volunteers help out at the information desk inside the hospital’s main entrance, help nurses and patients and sell items from their knitting cart – a small glass-enclosed cart that has hand-knit baby items for sale that are made and donated by members of the community.

Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary volunteers Debbie Tracey (left) and Karen Houlden stand inside the Thrift Shoppe on Main Street on April 12, 2022. The Auxiliary is looking for other volunteers to help to raise funds for Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Around 2010, there were over 100 volunteers with the auxiliary. But over the years, and especially during COVID, that number has dropped dramatically.

The biggest problem is the aging of volunteers. There were age-related deaths while others left when the pandemic hit and never returned.

They are now at 31 members. Tracey and Houlden said they would like to see the number of volunteers increase again to 100, but would be happy with just a handful more.

“If we could even get five or 10 volunteers, we’d be thrilled,” Tracey said.

Volunteers must work at least one four-hour shift per week.

They had to reduce services recently at the thrift store and at the hospital because they don’t have enough volunteers.

“We desperately need volunteers,” Tracey said.

“Everyone is desperate,” Houlden added. “And there are only so many people to go around.”

They raise funds primarily through the items they sell at the thrift store, but also through events such as raffles, bake sales, and pub nights. The money is used to buy items from the hospital’s “wish list”.

This year, they are purchasing an oscilloscope for the operating room, a lockable medical cart that holds medicine for Heritage Village, a medical cart and lift for the Bradley Center, and a bariatric stretcher for the emergency department. The total for the five items is $50,300.

“Our fundamental goal is to raise funds and provide supplies for the hospital,” Tracey said.

The Auxiliary also donates to various fundraisers for the hospital, such as Run For Mom. And each year they distribute three $2,000 high school scholarships – one to Chilliwack Secondary, one to Sardis Secondary and one to GW Graham.

It was 1908 when people realized the need for a hospital in Chilliwack

“Imagine having to travel by horse and buggy to a landing stage, then take a two-day Fraser River steamboat trip to New Westminster Hospital or travel by CPR train from Agassiz. This was the reality for people living in Chilliwack in the early 1900s,” reads the historic article on the Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary website.

The auxiliary was formed on May 1, 1911, but even before that the women were selling tags, badges and ribbons to raise money for Chilliwack’s first hospital.

Tracey and Houlden emphasize that membership is open to both men and women, and they encourage young people to join.

“We’re definitely open to people who just want to get out there and do something and meet people and not feel isolated,” Houlden said.

There is an application process to become a Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary volunteer, and individuals will be required to obtain a criminal record check free of charge. There is an annual fee of $12.

To volunteer, go to, or email or Debbie Tracey at

The thrift store is located at 9236 Main Street and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (donations accepted during this time, no furniture). The Hospital Information Desk is open 8:00 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

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