"While for most of the year we work in the background, this evening is our night to shine. We celebrate all of our hard work and our accomplishments throughout the past year. Welcome everyone to the annual dinner meeting of the Palmerton Hospital Auxiliary," said Auxiliary President Priscilla Offen as a greeting to the event's guests. The dinner was held in the Blue Mountain Health System's (BMHS) Palmerton campus's cafeteria.

The highlight of the evening was when Offen and Violet Strickland, the Auxiliary treasurer, presented a check in the amount of $37,500 to Patrick Reilly, President of the Mauch Chunk Trust Co. and board chairman of BMHS, and Andrew Harris, President and CEO of BMHS.

Reilly thanked the Auxiliary. "Your dedication is an inspiration."

The Palmerton Hospital Auxiliary (PHA) raises money through its many fundraisers ranging from the Owl's Nest Gift Shop, Nearly New Shop, art show, Christmas in July raffle, nut roll sale, plant sale, Krispy Kreme Donut sale, the Strawberry Shortcake stand at the Palmerton Community Festival, lottery calendar and Christmas Bake Sale.

Offen reported that the Auxiliary also purchased a TV and bracket that was installed for Radio Chemistry patients as part of its 2010 gift, stating that some of the tests require the patients to lie quietly for over an hour and the TV helps them pass the time.

The 2011 new gifts that the Auxiliary purchased are: a rolling cart for the hospital print shop at a cost of $2,060; a TV for the activities room of the Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit at a cost of $1,078; a TV cart for the second floor waiting room, $317.95; new sign for the Nearly New Shop, $970.

Offen introduced the members of the head table: Karen Kaiser, manager of the Nearly New Shop; Patrick Reilly, President of the Mauch Chunk Trust Co. and Chairman of the Board of BMHS; Jenny Serfass, the auxiliary's President-elect; Andrew Harris, President and CEO of BMHS; Emily Bradbury, immediate Past-President; Jean Zimmerman, guest speaker and Carbon County Coordinator for PA Senior Corps RSVP; Carol Heffelfinger, auxiliary secretary; Violet Strickland, auxiliary treasurer.

Two graduating Palmerton Area High School Seniors were awarded two of the Auxiliary's awards.

Kristen Romano received the Nancy G. Mendsen Medical Career Award. She will be attending Lock Haven University with plans to become a physician's assistant. An honor student, she played basketball, ran track and was a member of Student Council, the Environmental and Leo Clubs.

Kevin Seemiller was awarded the Dan and Mary Shook Nursing Award. He plans to attend Marywood University in Scranton to pursue a degree in nursing. He was an active member in drama, Mock Trial and FBLA and was vice President of his class. He plays the saxophone with the Palmerton Community Band and was active in Varsity Track and Cross Country and will be running on Marywood's cross-country team in the fall.

Emily Eberly and Tammy Neff were also special guests.

Emily Eberly was the 2010 recipient of the Joyce W. White In-House Nursing Award. She completed her Associates Degree in Nursing at LCCC and works in the Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit.

Tammy Neff is the 2011 recipient of the Joyce W. White In-House Nursing Award. She works on the Medical/Surgical floor at the Palmerton campus and is studying at DeSales University in the MSN Nurse Practitioner program.

Past Presidents of the Auxiliary were recognized. Those in attendance were: Joyce White and Emily Bradbury. Joyce White and Violet Strickland are Honorary Members.

The evening's guest speaker was Jean Zimmerman, Carbon County Coordinator for PA Senior Corps, RSVP. Her topic was "Benefits Checkup for Seniors.

Zimmerman began her talk about how many people have become volunteers in Carbon County.

"There are 250 volunteers. They save the county a boatload of money. But, the day I received your dinner program from Priscilla is the day I learned about the RSVP program in Carbon County is closing on June 30. Unless there is some kind of a miracle. I'd like to share my superior's definition of an optimist and a pessimist. An optimist sees a pile of manure and says, 'Oh look at this pile of manure. There must be a pony in it.' A pessimist will see that same pile of manure and say, 'That's a big pile of manure.' So we're all trying to be optimists and we're looking for a pony."

One of the things Zimmerman does is help people find out if they qualify for any kind of benefits.

"I've done 105 Benefits Checkups and found $400,000 worth of benefits since August."

She hopes to be able to continue helping people find benefits but if you would like to see if you qualify for any, she advises you to go on line at www.benefitscheckup.org, choose the NCOA's (National Council on Aging) online screening service. When that site comes on your screen, click on Find Benefits and then click on Comprehensive, then click on Start. Fill out the questionnaire then click on View Results. Click on View and Print Report. The description of the Benefit will be given and what you need to have ready when you apply (proof of income or proof of age, etc.) The name, address and telephone # will be given of the local office where you can apply.

In 2012, the Auxiliary will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The board will be submitting articles to the three 2012 issues of the Heartbeat, commemorating some of its history and is looking for information and pictures to share. If anyone would have anything, please contact Honey Cyr or Irene Shinsec. Offen is hoping that everyone who will attend the Auxiliary dinner next year will come in period dress.

Offen thanked the Blue Mountain kitchen staff for a very wonderful meal under the direction of Chef Steve Orach. She also thanked Joe Guardiani, BMHS's director of Fund Development and Governmental Affairs and Louise Zatoris for "being there for us again and again" as well as Don Browne and George Ashman as the auxiliary's auditors.

Guardiani told the Auxiliary that the work they do is amazing.

"We are giving these little LED flashlights as our favors because of the symbolism of them. They have little light-emitting diodes. When put together, they light up a room, just as all you ladies in this room. You light up our world. Keep shining forth your healing love on the patients at Blue Mountain Health Systems."