Hidden Healthcare: Volunteering runs in the blood

Beth Benbow, President of Bendigo Health’s Combined Auxiliaries President of the Bendigo Health Combined Auxiliaries Beth Benbow believes grass-roots fundraising has a bright future.
Hidden Healthcare takes a look behind the scenes at some of the people powering regional Victoria's largest hospital.

As a five-year-old Beth Benbow would watch her grandmother crouched over a copper boiler handwashing muddied football strips.

She’d do it most Sundays.

Beth explained that it was her grandmother’s way of contributing to the community she loved.

“As youngsters we absorb what’s going on around us. If you are raised in a family that supports the community then it’s going to rub off on you,” she said.

This volunteer spirit filtered through the generations, when Beth’s mother, Iris, founded Bendigo Health’s Intensive Care Auxiliary in 1979.

“Mum had a heart attack at 52 and thought the ward she was in was a bit bland and not the most welcoming place to recover in so she decided to do something about it,” she said.

Fundraising dinners, luncheons, raffles and tours around Australia were organised by the auxiliary, which helped provide medical equipment and fund critical care nursing scholarships. 

Beth became involved with the auxiliary as a 30-year-old, and took over the position of president two years ago following the passing of Iris.  

She has also been President of Bendigo Health’s Combined Auxiliaries for 13 years.

Beth said while the role of auxiliaries haven’t changed much over the years, what they can provide has.

“We used to be able to provide equipment back then, but now it’s more of the little things. Whether its patient diaries in ICU, entertainment or arts and crafts activities for residents in our nursing homes, these things make peoples’ lives more comfortable when they’re receiving healthcare,” she said.

The ICU auxiliary celebrated its 40-year anniversary in March, having raised around $2 million for the hospital, according to Beth.

But other areas have struggled, with the children’s ward and orthopeadic auxiliaries disbanding recently.

“When you look at the way our society has changed – the cost of housing and living – you’ve usually got both parents working and grandparents helping with grandchildren which impacts on their volunteering time,” she said.

However Beth, who oversees 100 auxiliary volunteers, has a positive outlook for the future.

“Auxiliaries will continue for as long as there’s people wanting to contribute. Some people can see the writing on the wall, I tend not to, I’m more of an optimist,” she said.

“The enthusiasm and commitment of our auxiliary volunteers is pleasing. They’re an amazing group of people who have formed long-term friendships.

“We’re all different, we all do different things, but if there was a volunteer gene inserted in every human being the world would be a much better place.”

If you are interested in becoming an auxiliary member, contact Beth on 0429011447.