REED CITY — Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Auxiliary has taken over a new name in hopes of reflecting more of the group's membership and mission.

The auxiliary — or volunteer organizations whose members perform work for the hospital without compensation — will now be known as Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals Auxiliary.

Adopting new bylaws in October to finalize the change, auxiliary board member Nancy Nowicki said the name change made logical sense, as the group supports projects at both hospitals, including the Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center.

“We can always use new members,” Nowicki said, noting the hospital auxiliary has members from Reed City and would welcome more. “The hospital has a big presence in Osceola County and many employees live there. We certainly invite anyone interested in joining to step forward. It’s very fulfilling work.”

Being a separate entity from the hospitals, the auxiliary raises money by operating the gift shop at the Big Rapids hospital and from other special events throughout the year, such as book sales and its recent linen sale.

Kicking off the holiday season, auxiliary volunteers currently are focusing their fundraising efforts on displaying and selling holiday decor items in the gift shop.

“It’s fun and we have a nice assortment of unique holiday items,” auxiliary board member and gift shop volunteer Dorothy Letavish said. “It’s a convenient place for hospital employees and members of the community to pick up nice gifts and support the hospital at the same time.”

Money raised has supported countless hospital projects over the years and has funded scholarships totaling more than $150,000 for area students going into a health care field, officials said. Projects funded this year included a $50,000 donation to the Wheatlake Wellness Path being constructed alongside the cancer center in Reed City, $50,000 toward a new scholarship endowment and $10,000 for transportation assistance for patients having difficulty getting to and from treatment.

Auxiliary funds also have been used in other large projects, such as the renovation of single-patient rooms and a variety of smaller needs, including funding sleeper sacks for all babies born at Big Rapids Hospital Family Birthing Center.

While there are many members in the organization, a press release stated one of the founding auxiliary members and past president, Joan Wellnitz passed away Nov. 3, after a brief illness.

Wellnitz served the auxiliary for at least 50 years.

“She was a sweetheart,” Nowicki said. “You couldn’t be upset, or mad, or down — not near her.”

Auxiliary members will start to consider 2020 projects in the spring based on funds available and hospital needs.