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WMC Auxiliary presents $60,000 check

WMC AUXILIARY DINNER HIGHLIGHTS — Weirton Medical Center Auxiliary held its annual awards dinner on July 15 in the hospital’s conference rooms A-B-C, a highlight of which was the auxiliary’s presentation of a $60,000 donation to the hospital. WMC Auxiliary President Sondra Weigel, second from left, presented the check to hospital officials, from left, John Frankovitch, WMC chief executive officer; Lisa Conti, chief nursing officer/executive vice president, physician practices; Joe Sayet, chief financial officer; and David Artman, chief operating officer. -- Janice Kiaski

WEIRTON — At one time in its history, the Weirton Medical Center Auxiliary had 175 members, not to mention a healthy presence of as many as 75 “volunteens” who helped with the organization’s activities.

Founded in 1953, the auxiliary made its hospital and community presence known in varied ways, from “Mrs. Bubbles” presentations in schools that taught children the importance of hand-washing to bicycle rodeos that provided safety tips and helmets.

Support of the hospital’s needs was a priority as well, a mission that hasn’t waned despite the auxiliary’s decline in membership to 20 members today.

The reminiscing came at the end of the auxiliary’s informal annual awards banquet held July 15 in the hospital’s conference rooms A-B-C, well after Sondra Weigel, auxiliary president, presented a check for $60,000 to WMC Chief Executive Officer John Frankovitch.

The dinner was held for the first time since 2019 — it was a canceled event in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic — but at that gathering, the auxiliary had presented a check for $75,000 to go toward cafeteria improvements.

“We’re coming along fine. I am hoping our $60,000 is going toward the renovations in the cafeteria,” Weigel said, adding that, “We’re hanging in there, doing the best we can.”

The auxiliary runs the WMC gift shop and traditionally has seven fundraisers a year — two Robert’s Medical Uniform sales; three $5 jewelry sales (the next one is Sept. 8-9); and two book sales.

“We’ve gone down, down, down,” Weigel said of the auxiliary membership, a situation not unique to it as other service organizations and groups share in the same state-of-affairs.

“All of us left are older people who’ve been here for years, who love it and want to keep doing it,” she said.

Prospective volunteers can obtain an application in the gift shop. The process involves an orientation.

The auxiliary dinner included the presentation of years-of-service awards to cover two years since the 2020 banquet wasn’t held. Those recipients included Joan Hawrot, who was absent, 25 years; Dolores Krinock and Domenica “Minnie” Malloy, each 15 years; and Cathy Colabrese, five years. For 2021 awards, Lola Starvaggi was applauded for 30 years followed by Elda Weekley with 25 years and Paula Billick, 15 years.

Frankovitch told the group it’s been an interesting year and that the hospital welcomes the auxiliary’s return.

“There were so many things about COVID that you don’t realize are missing in your life and one of them is being able to spend time with family and friends. A big part of it is seeing all of you because you’re so much a part of the hospital,” he said.

“I know the numbers get smaller and smaller but when you walk past a desk, walk past areas and we don’t see your faces, it didn’t feel the same, it didn’t feel like the same place, it didn’t feel grounded,” Frankovitch continued.

“Even though you may be smaller, you are mighty in our hearts, I can tell you that, and not just for your donation but it kind of makes it who we are. It shows who we are as a hospital,” he said, yielding to Donna Kittridge, WMC director of support services, to overview cafeteria improvements

“If you go down to the cafeteria you’ll see that the wallpaper has been taken from the walls, the brown brick is now white brick. We have flooring ordered, we have a new cash station and condiment station ordered,” she began.

“What you’ll see next is the flooring and the seating area get done and the walls painted so and then mid-to-late September we should be done with the whole project and that will be when we install the cash station and then we’ll do the demo on it and put new flooring throughout the service area,” she added.

“We also have a new entrance door ordered and a new door between the vending and seating area ordered, and that should make a big difference,” she said.

Frankovitch said thanks to the auxiliary’s hard work and donations, long-lasting changes are being made. It’s been 25-26 years since changes have been made in the cafeteria.

Weigel expressed appreciation for Kittridge. “She does a tremendous amount of work with me, and anytime I call her, she has an answer, she says I’ll get back to you and gives me a time frame, and she’s back there,” she said. “What an asset I believe that Donna is, not only to our volunteer group, our auxiliary, I really appreciate her probably more than anybody can say. She is kind of like my go-to,” she added.

Joe Sayet, the hospital’s new chief financial officer, was a newcomer to the dinner and was introduced by Frankovitch.

“It is nice to meet you all,” he said. “It’s a very tight margin at the hospital as you know. We don’t make a lot of money, so every dollar counts, and we really appreciate every dollar we get, so we thank you for your support. It really does mean a lot,” Sayet said.

Frankovitch noted that as the return to normalcy continues, the hospital moves forward with building plans.

“One of the things you are going to start seeing is construction in the building,” he said. “Our emergency room is too small. It’s been too small for a number of years. It’s built for about 20-25,000 visits a year, and we’re probably in the neighborhood of 35,000 to 40,000 a year, but we’re so locked in space, in order to expand the ER, it’s like a chess game. We have to move a bunch of other things,” he said, deferring to David Artman, chief operating officer, to offer details.

“What we’re doing is ultimately we’ll move the GI lab so we can expand the ER into that area,” Artman said. “We don’t know at this point if that’s going to be enough space, but one thing we do know is we’re going to need that space. We’re moving GI to where the current lab is back by where the OR is so that will allow for better flow for the GI lab. We’re moving the current lab to the third floor of the medical office building. We expect construction to start there in mid-August. We expect that to be wrapped up probably around February,” he said, noting that plans to do so earlier were delayed by the pandemic.

Kelli McCoy, WMC director of communications, said lobby updates are in the works.

“We have some updates to the lobby coming. We’re excited about that. You’re going to see a revamped entryway when you come into WMC and that’s soon, very soon,” McCoy said, adding, “but we’re so happy to have you here. We appreciate you so much, especially you, Sondra. I wish my generation thought more like you do — very philanthropic and always trying to think of the community, and we certainly appreciate that, but while you were gone, it was kind of a reminder that things weren’t normal,” she said. “The minute I saw you all coming back I got a warm feeling and knew, OK, we got through it (the pandemic). We have our auxiliary back, and we made it through. We appreciate you, and we missed you when you weren’t here,” McCoy said.

Frankovitch joked how the pandemic constituted stressful times, so much so he considered breaking into the gift shop to “whip up a milkshake” and relish some normalcy interrupted.

Lisa Conti, chief nursing officer/executive vice president, physician practices, echoed the sentiment of mission the gift shop being open during the pandemic.

“We missed the gift shop, too,” Conti said of its pleasant and welcoming atmosphere missed by employees on break.

Conti noted the hospital had a few new physicians come on board since COVID and will be welcoming several more in the weeks to come.

“Good things are coming, more physicians coming to provide more care for all of us.

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