Angels are at work at Trinity Regional Medical Center, helping visitors to the hospital get in the door.
This year the TRMC Auxiliary's Angels of Love fundraising project will support the hospital's valet program.
"Our valet services are always free, but obviously the cost of operating that program are fairly hefty," said Kathy Moe, head of volunteer services. "This is a way to support that, at least to a small degree."
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Volunteer Doris Underberg hangs Angels of Love on a Christmas tree in the Trinity Gift Shop. Angels are available for purchase in honor or memory of a loved one, and a list of names will go up on a board next to the gift shop.
The valet program is vital for some people to be able to reach the hospital, Moe said.
"On a daily basis, the valets will tell you there will be people who come and say, 'I could never even go to my doctor if I didn't have the valet to park me, or the volunteer to take me in a wheelchair,'" Moe said.
This is the 13th year for the Angels of Love, Moe said, and each year's angel is different.
The angel is about 5 1/2 inches high and made of clear acrylic. It has silver wings and designs around its shoulders with a few small crystals. An ornamental hook is built in, so the angel can be hung from anything, Moe said, not just a Christmas tree.
People buy the angels to honor a loved one, and that person's name goes up on a board outside the gift shop.
"It's not just to raise funds, it's also a wonderful tradition. People really look forward to either honoring or remembering somebody - it can be either," Moe said. "That's a huge draw. People come to make sure their angel is up there."
The angels cost $10 apiece and are available at the Trinity Gift Shop, which is open seven days a week.
The Auxiliary always orders between 750 and 900 angels, Moe said. The group hopes to raise $10,000 this year.
Limited numbers of angels from other years are available, if anyone has missed a year.
"We've had people who told us they have whole trees of just angels," said Moe.
Each year, the Auxiliary has used money from the sale of the angel ornaments to support a different hospital program.
For the past few years, the money has gone to Trinity's new cancer center. The Auxiliary recently reached its goal of donating $600,000 to the center. The group's fundraising chairpersons are Pat Hill and Jill Vandagriff.
Valet Sharla Baker said her job isn't just to park cars; it's to help people get into the building.
Without help, "I think it would be impossible" for some of them, she said.
"It's not only the elderly people," said Moe, "but it's young moms with three kids - and one of them is sick, how do you navigate with all that? It's people who need assistance, not just the elderly.
The Auxiliary has bought warm coats and other winter wear for the valets in the past, she said.
"Those coats, we have to make sure they're extra warm and extra durable," said Moe.
"We've had some tough days," Baker said. "Rain and snow and sleet - the tougher the days, the busier we are."
But Moe said she never hears them complain about the weather.
"We park some elderly people and they have a smile on their face and say 'Thank you,' it makes you feel pretty good, it kind of warms you up inside," said Valet Craig Rayster. "We're the first person they see, and the last person they see, so when you get a smile out of them and a thank you, it makes your day."