Still Pink and proud after 50 years

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Frankly Frankston Magazine’s editor, Kate Sears, delves into the history of the Pink Ladies, Peninsula Health’s longest running volunteer group, and explains how her great-grandmother started it all in April 1968.

Edna Vincent joined Frankston Hospital in 1951 as a member of the Frankston Community Hospital Ladies Auxiliary, a group of doctors’ wives that focused on fundraising. Her association with the hospital began in November 1941 when her husband, Dr Frank Vincent, became a member of its founding committee.

In 1952, Edna became president of the auxiliary. While dining with friends, an American guest suggested to Edna the idea of a hospital auxiliary with volunteer workers. After putting the concept forward to the hospital matron, she was refused until 1968, when the matron at the time, Jean Sutcliffe, asked Edna for some voluntary helpers. Lightening the workload of nurses and brightening up the lives of patients became a passion for Edna and her merry band of volunteers.

Fast-forward to 1982, and Edna had 200 or so dedicated members and had succeeded in raising millions of dollars for the hospital via raffles, operating two hospital kiosks, hiring televisions, street collections, stalls and an annual fete. The money raised then funded building projects and patient care equipment.

Celebrating its 50th year in service this year, this new auxiliary became fondly known as the Pink Ladies Auxiliary because the 15 founding members were given a distinctive cheerful uniform consisting of a floral pink dress, with white shoes and later a pink cape. These chirpy ladies in pink would help carry out services within the hospital to assist staff and patients with tasks such as folding linen, delivering newspapers, escorting new patients to their wards, delivering and maintaining patients’ flowers and so much more. Their help was truly invaluable.

Edna was awarded the MBE in 1964 for her outstanding services to the community. The Pinkies have also enjoyed visits from premiers and health ministers, and won the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Volunteer Award in the Metropolitan Volunteer Team of the Year Icon category, and a 2010 Minister for Health Award for Volunteering in the Most Outstanding Team Achievement Award category. Edna spread the concept of Pink Ladies to at least 15 other hospitals and remained president of the Pink Ladies’ Auxiliary for 31 years until her death in 1999.

Frankston Hospital has been able to continually grow and provide a high standard of patient care to the community thanks to Edna’s band of volunteers from past to present. Their dedication, support and tireless efforts are truly amazing, and they’ve raised a remarkable $8 million since day dot. The current president is Pauline Ellerby, and the Frankston Pink Ladies has 68 members who focus on the running of the kiosk as their main source of income. If you are interested in volunteering at Peninsula Health, contact the volunteer team on 9788 1536 or email volunteers@phcn.vic.gov.au