Sara McDaniel smiles as she looks up from the stack of papers she’s busily preparing for patients.
Every Wednesday morning, she’s the first person a patient sees as they enter the Angleton Danbury Campus Hospital.
“She’s our superstar receptionist,” says fellow Auxiliary of Angleton Danbury volunteer Kitty Bennett, who has worked with McDaniel for 26 years. “She’s a huge help to us.”
McDaniel works at the front desk of the hospital, keeping the traffic in the lobby flowing and getting patients where they need to be for appointments and procedures.
“Good morning,” she says as she greets a patient on this particularly dreary Wednesday morning. “How can I help you?”
Helping is ingrained in McDaniel’s DNA. She is one of the founding members of the Auxiliary of Angleton Danbury, a group formed by six women from Second Baptist Church in 1969.
The Auxiliary was formed to support the founding of the Angleton Danbury General Hospital in April 1969, an ambitious concept with a mission to provide quality health care for their community and Brazoria County.
“If it wasn’t for the Auxiliary, the hospital wouldn’t be where it is today,” says Michael Washburn, program manager at the Angleton Danbury Campus and liaison to the Auxiliary.
Over the years, the hospital has grown from two physicians to now being, as part of UTMB Health, a thriving health care resource with numerous faculty and community practices to serve patients.
Over the past five decades, McDaniel has worked in almost every department at the hospital, except the gift shop and cafeteria. When she first joined the Auxiliary, she volunteered in the business office where one of her main jobs was totaling records, she said.
As she walks through the hospital’s hallways, she offers smiles and hugs to those who have worked alongside her for years.
“I’ve always been civic-minded,” McDaniel says. “Life has been so good to me over the years, I believe in giving back.”
The Auxiliary has 140 members today, 80 of whom are active in volunteer and fundraising efforts.
In addition, the Auxiliary has raised more than $1 million over the past 50 years to support the hospital’s mission—through gift shop and bake sales, hospital vending machine proceeds and the annual event concert “Doc Rogers’ Family and Friends”. Among the equipment funded by the Auxiliary is a high-definition laparoscopic surgical unit. The organization also provides scholarships to Angelton-area students.
The largest single donation in the organization’s history was made by Gladys and Joe Peklo, who left their entire estate to the Auxiliary to advance the health care mission. Today, the women’s unit at the hospital is named in memory of the Peklos.
The Auxiliary’s contributions in supporting exemplary care are numerous. Auxiliary members work all across the Angleton Danbury Campus, with every volunteer having their own responsibility that makes use of their skills and experience.
They run the hospital’s gift shop and wellness center, staff the front desk, prepare beds for patients, and update patient families when their loved one is having a surgical or cardiac procedure. They also run the Angleton Danbury Assistance Mobile, a six-person golf cart used to transport visitors and patients from the parking lot to the hospital’s front doors. And, for the greater community, members donate blood.
Meanwhile, in the front lobby, a visitor might see Bobbye Peltier, another charter member who has volunteered more than 31,000 hours to the hospital district over the past 50 years.
When Peltier isn’t busy as the Auxiliary’s cookie chairperson or coordinating bake sales and decorating the campus for holidays, she distributes stuffed animals, trophies and pocket angels to brighten the days of patients and their families.
“If you do something for a stranger, it makes you feel good,” Peltier says. “This is just my way of giving back.”
Compared to some of the other members, Joyce Echols is relatively new to Brazoria County and the Auxiliary. She recently moved to Texas from Minnesota and wanted to find a way to get involved in her new community, so she decided to join the Auxiliary, she says.
She spends her time at the front desk at the main entrance of the hospital. There she greets every person with a smile and helps them get to and from their appointment. Echols is also a great source to answer questions because even if she doesn’t have the answer, she knows one of her fellow Auxiliary members will.
“We’re a lot like family here,” Echols says.
“They make a true difference here,” Washburn says of the Auxiliary members. “They’re an integral part of the Angleton Danbury team and we are so thankful for each of them.”