I recently peered at a yellowed 1951 Press Democrat article describing the Women’s Auxiliary to the Sonoma County Medical Society (as it was then called). The smiling women in the photograph that accompanied the article could easily have been Lucy and Ethel’s friends from “I Love Lucy.” The reporter began by describing the Women’s Auxiliary (now the SCMA Alliance) as one of the most active groups in Santa Rosa, yet wondered what this group of 77 women could actually accomplish. As the reporter observed, this handful of wives “for the most part are not professional people, nor do they necessarily have any special talents or abilities.”
Women's Auxilliary members circa 1952 (left to right): Ann Pleth, Beatrice Anderson, Charlotte Theusen, Jessie Stimson
The answer to her question about what they could accomplish was that they could accomplish quite a lot, and eventually build one of the strongest all-volunteer groups in Sonoma County. Their work has impacted many thousands of lives and created a legacy of giving that is still going strong six decades later.
It may not have been obvious, but these smartly dressed women were engaged in the important responsibility of building community. That activity is more than the occasional social events—such as fund-raising barbecues and fashion shows—or even conducting a group service project. Building community involves the more fundamental elements of caring about how children are raised, keeping our environment safe, and promoting health and well-being for all the people in our county.
Building community is no small task. According to the book The Abundant Community, several organizing principles must be present for a volunteer organization to achieve competence.1 Among them is having members who are willing to share their gifts. This concept should not be underestimated. When people do something voluntarily, it is because they care about it—or else it wouldn’t happen. Further, there is no group cohesion without care. For these women in 1951, just like the women who had established the Auxiliary 22 years before, being willing to come together to share their time and talents was the starting point for building community.
Each decade has presented the Auxiliary or Alliance with its own challenging health care issues. The more notable programs include one that began with the women mentioned above. Beginning in 1951, Auxiliary members gave holiday gifts to children in foster care, an effort that has evolved into one of our most successful activities: the Give-a-Gift Program.
During the 1960s, Auxiliary members brought their attention to the next generation of health care professionals. Calling upon the artistic talents of their members, they developed the Holiday Greeting Card fundraiser in 1965. Together with the medical society, the group offered a loan program for Sonoma County students seeking careers in the medical field. Eventually the program transitioned into the Health Careers Scholarship Program, which has awarded scholarships to more than 770 students pursuing health-related professions.
In the 2000s, the Safe Schools Program emerged as the Alliance reached out to public schools by offering grants for purchasing anti-bullying and anti-violence curricula. Teachers from elementary, middle and high schools responded eagerly and continue to do so as the program enters its 12th year.
With the implementation of these and other programs, the community has been strengthened, and lives have been transformed. The fact that the SCMA Alliance has been going strong for 85 years underscores a fundamental truth: working together for the greater good never goes out of style. Our members now include men and women with a wide range of skills from across the professional spectrum. Today’s Alliance members may look different from those 1950s ladies, but our goal remains the same.
During the past few years, the SCMA Alliance Foundation has raised nearly a million dollars and has supported Alliance programs as well as many local organizations that address childhood obesity, mental illness, access to specialty care, and many more issues. At the same time, the organization has been instrumental in offering physician families the opportunity to deepen their relationships outside the professional realm.
To celebrate its 85th anniversary, the Alliance is having a big party. On Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, we are hosting a gala event to honor our impressive history and ensure our future. The event will be held at the beautifully renovated DeTurk Round Barn in Santa Rosa. There will be specialty cocktails, a sit-down dinner and stand-up dancing. Fun and unique party opportunities, raffle items and a live auction are also part of the evening’s events. Proceeds from the event will benefit SCMA Alliance and Foundation programs.
Please join us and show your support for the SCMA Alliance. For more details, contact our Gala85 chairperson, Lisa Sugarman, at email@example.com. ::
Ms. Pappas is vice president for marketing and communications at the SCMA Alliance & Foundation.
1. McKnight J, Block P, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, Berrett-Kohler (2010).
SONOMA MEDICINE | Fall 2014 | Sonoma County Medical Association
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