Community, Big Rapids Hospital

Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Auxiliary Announce Gifts

$110,000 in gifts to fund scholarship endowment and Wheatlake Wellness Path.

Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Auxiliary board members and gift shop managers, include, from left: Nancy Nowicki, Jane Torry, Jan Deregnier, Dorothy Letavish, Deb Yost and Peggy Graham. Missing is Debra Jacks, Doris Conrad and Cathy Woolen.

June 24, 2019

BIG RAPIDS, June 21, 2019 – Members of the Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Auxiliary continue to make a positive difference in the lives of area residents needing health care – and for students who will someday provide it.

Three large gifts and pledges totaling $110,000 have been announced, including $50,000 to establish a new scholarship endowment to help college students going into health care fields.

The Ferris Foundation agreed to match the scholarship donation to provide financial aid for students with ties to Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals.

“We need people in health fields in our communities and at our hospitals,” auxiliary president Nancy Nowicki said. “Providing scholarships is extremely important to us. Creating this endowed fund will ensure these scholarships will be available forever. That’s exciting.”

The new scholarships will be awarded to students enrolled in the College of Health Professions, College of Pharmacy or the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University. Recipients must be an employee, volunteer or intern at Big Rapids or Reed City Hospitals or a spouse, child or grandchild of the same.

Students can apply for the scholarships beginning December of 2020 for awards given in 2021. Until then, the auxiliary will continue to award annual scholarships, as they have for the last 20 years, totaling approximately $150,000 for local students.

The current scholarship program gives preference to hospital employees attending programs in the College of Health at FSU.

Another $50,000 donation was given to the soon-to-be constructed Wheatlake Wellness Path at the Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center.

The auxiliary is sponsoring the picnic shelter at the path, which will be adjacent to the cancer center, allowing patients and families a peaceful area for rest or conversation.

The winding path will feature multiple benches, trees, a fountain, healing gardens, reflection spaces and picnic areas. The flat, paved surface will be completely accessible for everyone.

“It’s very important for patients and for the community to have the cancer center close to home,” Nowicki said. “The opportunity for patients and caregivers to get outside and breathe some fresh air will be wonderful as part of their treatment.”

The last gift, for $10,000, is to provide transportation assistance for patients having difficulty getting to and from treatment.

Free transportation services are available to elderly and low-income patients to allow health care access to Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals and the cancer center.

“Transportation for people is very important,” Nowicki said. “We’re a rural community and some people simply cannot afford it.”

The gift will assist about 1,000 patients, as the average amount needed for local transportation is $10 per visit.

The auxiliary raises money by operating the gift shop at Big Rapids Hospital and from other special events throughout the year such as flower and book sales.

Nowicki said the group is always looking to grow its membership, which is currently around 50 active members. Joining is easy. “You just ask,” she said.

Nowicki asked to help at the gift shop 15 years ago when she was looking for a volunteer outlet after her husband and mother passed away.

“There are times visitors to the gift shop just want to talk to somebody, so you just listen and hope to make them smile,” she said.

“Volunteering is worthwhile, and it makes me feel good,” she said. “And I hope I make other people feel good. It’s good to give back to the community.”

Shelly Westbrook, Spectrum Health Foundation Director of Northeast Region hospitals including Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals said she’s grateful for the efforts of auxiliary members – and to hospital employees who support the gift shop and auxiliary events.

“Employees are also heroes in this,” Westbrook said. “We’re very thankful for their support of the gift shop and the various sales that raise money for our hospitals.”

Auxiliary funds have been used in large projects such as renovation of single patient rooms at Big Rapids Hospital, and smaller needs like providing a refrigerator in the pharmacy.

It also funds newborn sleeper sacks for all babies born at the Big Rapids Hospital Family Birthing Center.

For more information about the auxiliary, contact Nowicki at 231.867.3311 or email

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