VALDOSTA -- Members of South Georgia Medical Center's Volunteer Auxiliary unselfishly share their time and talents each day helping to care for others.

Better known as the "Pink Ladies" and the "Red Coats," these volunteers have given more than one million hours of their time serving patients and their families since the group was organized on April 5, 1956.

Johnny Tinsley, a member of the medical center's "Red Coats," contributed 700 of those total hours.

"You are so used to working all those years," he said. "Then when you retire, you quickly get bored. You can only do so much golfing and fishing."

Tinsley said a friend told him about volunteer opportunities at the hospital.

"He said they needed help," Tinsley added.

For the past five years, Tinsley has worked every Friday morning at the medical center from about 6:15 a.m. until he is finished with what needs to be done. The majority of the time, Tinsley said he works at the volunteer desk located in the hospital's main lobby.

"I make sure everyone from the fifth floor to the cancer center gets a copy of the Valdosta Daily Times each morning," said Tinsley, who remains very active in the Valdosta community serving as a member of the Masonic Temple and deacon at Westside Baptist Church and caring for his "loving wife of 54 years." "Then I spend some time talking to those patients who simply need someone to talk to."

Tinsley also delivers flowers to patients.

"I am here to serve the patients and their families," Tinsley said. "And I love doing it. I am going to stay here until they run me off and fire me."

After five years of service, Marion Anice Cross, a "Pink Lady" at SGMC and president of the Volunteer Auxiliary, contributed 1,000 hours to the total.

"We work here because we love it," she said. "It is very rewarding. When we show up, the patients and their families smile."

Cross volunteers her time serving patients in the oncology lab at the Pearlman Comprehensive Cancer Center each morning.

"I do whatever they need me to do," she said. "I deliver test results, answer the telephone, etc. I also help out in other areas of the hospital as needed."

A retired teacher of more than 32 years, Cross said she just could not sit still all day and do nothing.

"There's so much that needs to be done," said Cross, a member of First Baptist Church who enjoys spending time with her husband of 47 years and friends.

Other auxilians serve as hosts and hostesses, provide information and directions, work as clerks in the gift shop, deliver mail, assist in offices, and provide other services as needed to patients and their families and members of the medical staff.

About one year after the "Pink Ladies" were organized on the campus of South Georgia Medical Center, they joined with the Georgia Hospital Association. Nineteen years later they began to refer to themselves as "auxilians" due to the abundance of male volunteers.

Of course, these "Pink Ladies" and "Red Coats" do more than just volunteer their time. They also work to make the hospital a better place physically.

Cross said in 1959, the group's first profit-making project was launched as they worked to get the patient areas of the hospital wired for televisions. In 1977, brand new color television sets were installed in these areas.

In July 1971, the auxiliary added the Newborn Picture Service as a fundraising project. Other projects include various book sales, uniform sales, photography sales, and the famous Love Light Tree.

In 1984, the Golden Galleria gift shop, named in honor of Lil Golden, past president of the auxiliar and dedicated member, was opened with a $20,000 loan from the auxiliary's general fund.

Cross said all profits derived from their fund-raising efforts are used to help fund hospital projects like the Golden Galleria, Langdale Place, the Pearlman Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Dasher Heart Center.

The auxiliary also sponsors a scholarship each year for a deserving medical student. This scholarship is named in honor of Clarice

Ivey Massey for her outstanding contribution to science education.

Cross said the group's current projects include the Life-Line project, which installs and maintains Life-Line units for patients all over the county and surrounding area and the WHALE (We Have A Little Emergency) project, which provides indentification stickers to young mothers for their newborn baby. These stickers are placed on the baby's safety seat.

There are 150 volunteer auxilians at South Georgia Medical Center.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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