Imagine the impact of a holiday tradition that begins on your birthdate and carries on through family generations to follow.
A priceless Christmas tradition began more than 50 years ago at Bonner General Health and continues to touch the lives of Sandpoint community members. During the month of December, all newborn babies at BGH receive a hand-knitted hat and a red flannel stocking—a stocking large enough that it can easily provide a warm ride home for a newborn baby.
BGH Auxiliary volunteers eagerly continue the tradition this December, creating stockings and hats that will be hand-cut, sewn and donated. Each red and white hat is provided by individual knitters and local knitting groups contributing to the holiday tradition.
“Parents of newborns from past Christmases have said they still use their stockings each year at Christmas because it has been their family tradition to hang them up with those of other family members who received them throughout the years,” reported Margo Johnson, Council chairman for BGH.
Nurse Jody Martin, a longtime employee of BGH, had a baby at the hospital in December of 1977. In her time at BGH, Jody has assisted in the delivery of thousands of local babies, allowing her to experience the heartfelt impact of the tradition from both perspectives.
The BGH stockings have become part of a family history for generations of Sandpoint locals. Many have kept the stockings they received as newborns and have continued to include them in their holiday celebrations as their family grows.
In addition to the stocking, each newborn also returns home from BGH with a goodie bag. Volunteers fill each bag with donations from the community. Items included in the bag are often baby’s first book, magazines, booties, blankets and additional colored hats. These bags are provided to Bonner General Health newborns throughout the entire calendar year.
The BGH Volunteer Council members assist in many areas of the hospital, taking pride in the provision of the special touches that will make a difference in patients’ lives. They have provided a variety of services to the hospital, from sewing and flower care to food service and reception. Known to enthusiastically support events, they host several throughout the year, including the Christmas “Parade of Trees.”
The volunteers’ impact was perhaps first noted with the opening of Sandpoint’s very first hospital gift shop, which has been noted one of the volunteers’ most exciting contributions. At the time of its opening, Auxiliary volunteers staffed the gift shop seven days a week, selling gift merchandise, cards and gift-wrapping services. Proceeds from the gift shop were put toward the funding of hospital equipment to improve each patient’s experience. The shop is now open Monday through Friday, providing the community an opportunity to find unique gifts while giving back to a respectable cause.
The late, admired Sandpoint resident Hazel Hall stated in a speech about the volunteers, “I’m always amazed at the energy of light given so freely in our little town of Sandpoint. One of the organized clusters of light that shines brightest is the Bonner General Hospital Auxiliary.” This sums up a common reflection on the Volunteer Council: a group that gives and seeks to bring light to those around them.
Each December baby is guaranteed to leave Bonner General Health with warm wishes and their first holiday gifts from a group dedicated to their purpose of positively impacting patients’ lives. The spirit of the holiday season thrives at BGH with the holiday memories thoughtfully created by Auxiliary volunteers.