A founding volunteer at Lyell McEwin Hospital celebrates 100 years

06 December 2021

After celebrating turning one hundred on Wednesday 3 November, Dorothy Joel reflects on 60 years of volunteering at the Lyell McEwin Hospital, including a ten-year stint as president of the Hospital Auxiliary.

NALHN volunteer Dorothy with flowers
Dorothy was presented flowers from the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network in appreciation of sixty years volunteering at the Lyell McEwin Hospital. 

In 1957 Dorothy migrated from England with her husband John and their three children to the Barossa Valley as John had acquired employment with a local finance business. Unfortunately, after 18 months John was seeking new employment as the business closed.

“At the time the Lyell McEwin Hospital was being built,” recalled Dorothy. “As you drove down Main North Road from the Barossa Valley you could see the hospital, as the nurse’s home was the tallest building in the area. So understandably it was attracting a lot of excitement in the community.”

With previous experience working as a finance officer at a hospital in England, when a position for a hospital administrator became available at Lyell McEwin Hospital John decided to apply. He was successful in acquiring the position and the Joel family relocated to Elizabeth East where Dorothy resided until 2019.

“I remember attending the opening of the hospital by Sir Lyell and Lady McEwin on 22 April 1959, there was a lot of excitement in the air.”

Prior to the opening, Dorothy was part of a group of female volunteers who formed the Hospital Auxiliary on 29 February 1959. The volunteers actively prepared for the opening of the hospital, making soft furnishings for the main hospital and nurse’s home.

“In the beginning we started fundraising by holding trading tables where visitors, patients and hospital staff could purchase knitted items, such as baby caps and booties, and an array of baked goods, from apple pies to beautifully decorated cakes.”

“My speciality was cream horns; I would bake up at least six dozen and sell a tray of six for $1.50. I remember the doctor’s loved them, there was one Doctor who would buy two dozen at a time for his team to enjoy!”

Dorothy also recalls holding film nights and dinners held in the hospital dining room all catered by the hospital’s chef, where there would be dancing and fun games. All proceeds raised by the auxiliary was used to purchase equipment, furniture or other items required by the hospital. One project funded by the hospital auxiliary which stands out in Dorothy’s mind is the furnishing of a room for families of loved ones who were in the Emergency Department, so they also felt cared for while at the hospital.

Over the years the support provided by volunteers to the hospital has increased. From visiting patients with a cuppa and a friendly chat, caring for their children and guiding loved ones and visitors to their bedsides. Volunteers have also arranged fresh flowers and delivered gifts to patients throughout the hospital.

“The Lyell McEwin Volunteer Association is a lot more organised than we ever were in the early days,” said Dorothy. “They do a wonderful job and I really admire them as they are much more involved in the hospital then we were.”

As the hospital grew so did the need to establish a volunteer association. This saw the Association become incorporated just over 30 years ago and change their name to the Lyell McEwin Volunteer Association.

In 2019 the association celebrated 60 years of caring for the community and expanded their service to include 100 volunteers that provide support at Modbury Hospital.

According to Gail Chorlton, CEO of the Lyell McEwin Volunteer Association there are more than 55 individual points of contact at numerous sites across the North where volunteers from the Lyell McEwin Volunteer Association make a direct difference to the lives of the patients, their families and visitors of the NALHN community.

“Dorothy is a Life Member of the Association, her passion for volunteering and her past contribution to the hospital community cannot be understated. She is truly a very special individual and we wish her all the very best on her 100th birthday”.

While Dorothy no longer volunteers at the hospital, she has over 60 years of memories she holds close to her heart.

“The formation of the hospital was very exciting, and it has proved to be such a wonderful place,” said Dorothy. “I can’t single out just one highlight from my time volunteering at the hospital, I just enjoyed it all.”

The Northern Adelaide Local Health Network wishes Dorothy a happy one hundredth birthday and thanks her for sixty years volunteering at the Lyell McEwin Hospital.

Learn more about the Lyell McEwin Volunteer Association.