Pink Ladies: making a difference

Published 12:58 am Tuesday, April 23, 2013

LSU Bogalusa Community Medical Center loves its Pink Ladies.

That’s according to the administration, staff, the Foundation Board and the Community Advisory Committee, which invited the ladies to a Pink Ladies Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday. Patient Advocate Merlin Duke, COO Regina Runfalo and TITLE Beverly Sheridan were in attendance representing the hospital administration.

Pink Ladies are known throughout the country in hospitals large and small. Senior ladies, in most cases, dress in pink smocks and greet patients and staff alike with smiles and a kind word. Why the organization is called the Pink Ladies is anyone’s guess, as there is really no definitive answer to the question. It does seem, however, that the ladies in pink first became a volunteer organization right after World War II, in the late 1940s or early ’50s.

After the invocation and a short introduction by Duke, the newest Pink Ladies were asked to introduce themselves.

Judy Marshall spoke up first.

“I’m fairly new to Bogalusa,” she said. “I joined Civic League and Miss Joyce (Puckett) talked us into this,” she said as laughter rippled throughout the room. “I loved it,” she said, “and I’m enjoying it very much.”

Leaudria Miller followed, saying, “I think I came back to Bogalusa about the same time that Judy did. I was just lucky enough to get in the Civic League the same time Judy did and we worked on our float together,” she said, and kind of lowered her voice, “which we didn’t know what to do. Along with Miss Joyce, and Miss Joyce is the reason I’m here,” she said as she sat down.

The last newby, Marcia Pulling, said that she had been here for about two months.

“I was living in San Francisco,” she said, “and I came back in early February of this year.” She added, “I’m glad to be here.”

As everyone filled their plates from bowls laden with chicken salad, shrimp salad, a green salad, mixed fresh fruits, and plates filled with sweet treats, Duke asked that some of the “old timers” speak up and tell about how it was in the old days.

“When we first started it was in the old wooden building next to the hospital, a part of the old Charity Hospital,” said Francis Mills. “We met upstairs,” she continued, although someone said there was no second floor.

“We were the leading volunteers in the city and we organized… oh, it’s been probably 60 years ago,” she said. “It was before civic league…”

Puckett spoke up. “We used to have workshops to do handwork before we had a gift shop. We had to sell twice a year… in the 1970s.

“When we first organized, we had money-making projects and we would buy curtains, etc., and buy whatever the hospital needed. It was more than just volunteer work when we first started,” said Puckett.

Joining in the conversation, Sheridan said, “Actually these ladies did the Dogwood Festival in those days,” she said. “That was the big thing of the year.

“I was in the Dogwood Festival as a participant when I was in high school, and one of the big fundraisers was the tour of the homes. The dogwoods would be blooming and you got new dresses,” she said laughing, “and it was a big deal. You got to walk over the little bridge and it was a very nice event,” she said.

“Then you had the tour of homes, and the Pink Ladies would work in the homes as hostesses. If you were a maid or a princess, you were a hostess at the home and you were trained to tell about the house,” Sheridan said.

“Everyone was interested to see Dr. Harrell’s home.”

Puckett said, “When I was in nursing training in the ’40s they (the Harrells) used to invite students over to go swimming in their pool,” she said.

She also remembered when there was a wooden sidewalk from the street up to the front door of the hospital.

“It was a wooden walkway,” Puckett said.

Once the reminiscing was finished, Duke handed out special pens to each of the ladies garbed in pink.

“A favor from the foundation for you. It’s a very special pen,” a keepsake, he said. “We appreciate your service.”

Puckett, speaking for all the ladies, thanked Duke for “giving us this expression of appreciation for volunteer services. We enjoy what we’re doing, and you’re so gracious to give us this luncheon.”

And then it was time for the awards. The person with the most hours volunteering for the month of March won the grand door prize, a large pink potted hydrangea. With 26 hours for the month, Francis Mills was the winner. In second place was Mary Alford, 23.5 hours. Ellie Barker was third with 18 hours; Donna Trooskin, 16.5 hours; and tied for fifth place, Rose Corrente and Yvonne Pierce, each with 16 hours. All of the runners-up took home the smaller flower arrangements placed on each table for decoration.

These volunteers have served many hours and through their efforts they have been able to purchase hospital items not allowed within the state budget. The Pink Ladies remain an important part of hospitals all across the country.

Anyone interested in becoming a Pink Lady should call Patient Advocate Merlin Duke at 730-6800 and inquire. There can never be too many volunteers or too many Pink Ladies. Each and every one does her best to make the hospital experience as comfortable as possible for patients and visitors alike.