The Overlook Auxiliary is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports Overlook Medical Center with volunteering and fundraising efforts. Founded in 1916, the Overlook Auxiliary has almost 200 active members and has contributed more than $20.7M to the Medical Center community since its inception.
The Auxiliary has several signature fundraisers, including the “Art At Overlook” Auction & Cocktail Reception and the Gift Shop & Bloom – the Medical Center’s gift shop and floral boutique.
Overlook Medical Center is a part of Atlantic Health System, one of New Jersey’s largest nonprofit health care systems. As a nonprofit organization, Overlook Medical Center strives to deliver high-quality, safe, and affordable health care with respect and compassion.
Founded in 1916, the Overlook Auxiliary was created by 16 community-minded ladies under the leadership of Mrs. William Wisner. The ladies of The Women’s Auxiliary of Overlook, as it was first known, saw the need to support the local hospital in Summit, New Jersey. Up to that point, travel to Newark or New York City was required to receive advanced medical care so they were grateful for the founding of Overlook in 1906.
In the early days, during two World Wars, and as the Auxiliary grew, members held fundraisers and helped with operational tasks like folding bandages, redecorating hospital rooms, and sewing linens. The Auxiliary at that time was responsible for all the linens in use in the hospital, with members taking linens to their homes to wash. Mondays were known as ‘sewing days.’
From 1947-1949 the women of the Auxiliary founded and staffed the hospital’s first Tea Room and Gift Shop. This new venture was highly successful and the financial contribution to the hospital/medical center increased exponentially. Volunteers ran the Tea Room which served as a café to visitors and staff. For many years, Overlook Auxiliary volunteers in the Gift Shop would go room-to-room to ensure all patient rooms had working televisions. Additionally, patients would call the Gift Shop to schedule a traveling hairdresser to come to their room to shampoo and wash their hair.
Around the same time “Twigs,” smaller affinity groups of members with dedicated smaller projects, were introduced and, according to our recorded history “membership of the Auxiliary grew tenfold”.
Along with the increase in membership, the “creative fundraising soared.” The Auxiliary raised funds through “Follies” shows, a very popular type of variety show at that time in history. With help from the Summit Playhouse Group and the Chatham Players, the first Follies in 1949 had a cast of 185; it was such a success that the following year had a cast of 220 people. In three years, the Follies raised $38,000 for the hospital. Then followed a series of musicals: “Show Boat,” “Carousel,” and “Hello Dolly.”
Many successful fundraising galas took place in the years following, the most notable of which being the Diamond Jubilee Gala in 1976. At this event Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco served as Honorary Chair and entertainer Bob Hope added his blend of warmth and funny stories. This Gala provided a generous donation toward the opening of the Center for Community Health.
Members also continued their commitment to hospital volunteering, and organizing and staffing projects such as the baby photo cart, floral arranging and delivery, a traveling gift cart with magazines and small patient craft projects.
The Auxiliary launched a very popular cookbook, Cooking is our Bag, with a compilation of over 500 recipes from Auxiliary members, Overlook employees, celebrities, and local restaurants. A later cookbook, Great Gatherings, was published in 2003 and included tasty recipes from nearly 100 members. Both cookbooks were successful fundraising and community-building efforts.
Between 1982 and 1990, the Auxiliary raised over two million dollars. In 1990, the Auxiliary pledged $500,000 to help finance the Child Care Center for employees (now known as Bright Horizons). Other major fundraising endeavors during this time included renovation of the main floor, a CAT scanner, six kidney dialysis units, and two mobile intensive care vehicles.
In 1992, in response to a need for organ donors, the Donate Life Committee was initiated. It was part of the Auxiliary until 2012 at which time members became part of NJ Sharing Network, New Jersey’s federally-designated non-profit organ procurement organization.
In 1996, at the celebration of the Auxiliary’s 80 years of service, the watch words were “Commitment, Challenge, Compassion, & Camaraderie”; commitment to our hospital, challenge to use our talents constructively, compassion for the ill or injured, and camaraderie with people who work with you to lend a hand. In fact, when the Auxiliary celebrated its centenary in 2016, its Board adopted and updated the phrase to “Commitment, Compassion and Community” in recognition that its mission includes service to the entire Overlook Medical Center community.
In 2008, the Auxiliary co-sponsored the Twin Maples Centennial Show House. Successful Kitchen Tours followed in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017 benefited Ovarian Cancer, the Valerie Center, Pediatric Eating Disorders, and Hospice Complementary Programs, respectively, and raised over $90,000.
The Auxiliary donated $100,000 to the newly-renovated Emergency Department to help meet the needs of this increasingly busy area. Atlantic Hospice (now known as Atlantic Visiting Nurse) honored the Auxiliary for its support of Camp Clover, a one-week bereavement camp for children and teens who have lost a loved one.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Overlook Auxiliary continued its support of Overlook in a variety of ways by not only raising over $175,000 to purchase needed sterilization equipment but also raising $27,000 through the Phantom Ball, a virtual fundraiser, to help support COVID-19 patients post-hospitalization. Additionally, the Auxiliary garnered support from the community to assist with:
- Funding a much-needed sterilization machine (referenced above), two handheld ultrasound machines, and additional PPE from proceeds generated by our “HOPE and GRATITUDE” rainbow lawn sign campaign. Thanks to generous local residents, our lawn signs lined the streets of our communities with the message “hope and gratitude are more contagious than any virus” – a visual reminder of our thanks to all the healthcare and essential workers.
- Delivering “Comfort and Care” COVID-19 Response Baskets to each of the 44 departments of Overlook Medical Center. The baskets were prepared with love by our very own Gift Shop & Bloom.
- Collecting over 100 blankets and grocery gift cards for mothers in need and facing home and food insecurity at the HealthStart Clinic at Overlook Medical Center.
- Maintaining Gift Shop & Bloom operations, which remained open for all frontline workers and provided a small sense of normalcy to the medical center community. It also offered curbside pick-up of gifts and floral arrangements, all of which
Our Sewing Twig was formed in 2020 and created countless surgical masks, scrub caps, and button headbands for staff. Today they continue to knit baby booties, baby hats for Mother/Baby and lapghans and fidget aprons for Elder Care. The activity aprons are in high demand as they feature buttons, zippers, velcro, and strings to help with dexterity issues as well as occupy anxious patients while waiting for blood draws. Their newest initiative is making reusable shopping bags from recycled sterile blue wrap which accounts for approximately 19% of operating room waste.
Post pandemic, in-person gatherings resumed with two annual Art at Overlook Auction and Cocktail receptions which raised $32,000 for a Creative Art Therapy program for pediatric and adolescent patients of Overlook Medical Center. In addition, the rotating Art at Overlook Gallery program has provided beautiful rotating artwork to the halls on the main floor while giving exposure to local artists. The ongoing fundraiser donates 20% of all art sales back to the Auxiliary.
The work of the Auxiliary is as varied as its members with some members focusing on fundraising and others on hands-on-service. Every year we provide nursing scholarships to OMC employees who are continuing their nursing education. Prior to Covid, members served coffee and tea to patients, families, and visitors to the Oncology Center twice a month. Today, we bring holiday joy to the public areas of the Medical Center and host three team-building and employee appreciation receptions a year for all Overlook staff.
Since 2022, we have donated $200,000 to the Overlook Medical Center community. Highlights of our gifts include a Brevera Breast Biopsy Machine for the Overlook Breast Center, a Flex Elite iPad Pro Cart for HealthStart, magazine subscriptions for the Thomas Glasser Caregiver’s Center, infant CPR kits and sleepsacks for Mother/Baby, and gym equipment for a new Neurology Rehabilitation program.
Currently, the Auxiliary has twelve active Twigs which bring innovative ideas for fundraising and service projects. Through the years, Twigs have Conducted maternity tours, caroled during the holidays, started a program to make Thanksgiving Baskets for Health Start Clinic, made puppets for pediatric patients, and so much more. Fundraisers have included Kentucky Derby parties, wine tastings, employee vendor sales, selling luminaries and “Lights of Love.”
Our Junior Twig program was started in 2018 to instill volunteerism and community service in the next generation. High school students work together to boost morale of employees and patients with homemade cards, plant flowers in the Hersh Children’s Center outdoor space and help decorate for the holidays. They also organize creative fundraisers like selling college care packages to purchase items from our Wish List.
The Overlook Auxiliary Gift Shop & Bloom, the Auxiliary’s primary fundraiser, is located in the main lobby of Overlook Medical Center where it serves the needs of visitors, staff, and volunteers alike. The shop offers beautiful gifts and floral arrangements, essential personal items, snacks and magazines all while offering respite to patients, visitors and staff from the stress of the day. Since 2013, the Gift Shop has featured a unique take on the concept of ‘Eat Local’ — selling jars of honey from the Overlook Medical Center apiary of hives on site. To date, we have sold more than 3,500 jars which equates to 1,750 pounds of honey!
Overlook Auxiliary members and the Gift Shop & Bloom make it possible to continue the long record of support for Overlook that started in 1916. By raising over $20 million during its illustrious history, the Auxiliary can be proud of its contribution to the Overlook Medical Center and the community it serves. Although we no longer sew the linens, you will hear about the service of Auxiliary members who carry on the work started over a century ago.
The Overlook Auxiliary is 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer organization cultivating a compassionate and comforting environment throughout the entire Overlook Medical Center Community with active volunteering and imaginative fundraising.