By Martha Saltarelli
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
The annual “Valentine’s Day Extravaganza,” run by the mission committee at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital, will be held today in the front lobby of the hospital.
“This basket auction is one of the main fundraisers for the mission committee at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital and Health Center. The staff and visitors of the hospital have an opportunity to support the mission committee, which, in turn, provides funds for programs that the mission committee supports, such as employee assistance programs, local mission travel programs, and local charities,” nurse practitioner Melissa Fincher-Mergi said.
Friday marks 18 years of this event, which includes a basket raffle with high-end items and grand prizes, cheesecake for sale, pizza, a 50/50 raffle as well as a bake shop.
The event is open to the public, and the raffle be drawn at 2 p.m. The cost of raffle tickets will be $5 each or $10 for three. The winner will receive four St. Louis Cardinal tickets and an overnight stay.
Sister Nora Sweeney, who has worked for 11 years as a social worker at the Neighborhood Health Clinic, explained all donations come from local stores in Lewiston and Niagara County area. The Mount St. Mary’s Health Clinic will donate items, and employees from the hospital will donate, as well. It is a community event, and many people are involved.
“We could raise up to $8,000-$9,000 in one day. That money will then go into a fund, and we will continue to use it throughout the year to help those that are in need,” Sister Nora said.
The baskets will include lottery tickets, personal-care items, household items, gift cards and more.
“Some of the grand prizes include a Kitchen-Aid Mixer, a bicycle, an Instant Pot, and likely over 100 other baskets, including gardening and kitchen supplies and children’s toys,” Fincher-Mergi said.
Sister Judith Terrameo explained the money raised during the event is used for aiding the employees when they are in need. For example, one associate in the past was provided hearing aids thanks to the money raised at the event.
However, employees have various other needs, as well, that have been met by this fundraiser.
“There might be someone that died in the family, and financially they’re not able to pay for their funeral. We will assist them with some of the funding,” Sister Nora said.
Additionally, some of the funds are contributed toward the foreign missions, as well as other local needs.
“We have assisted local charities such as Missions to Chiapas, Mexico, and other foreign countries. We have arranged for farm-stand sales to assist local farmers and to raise funds for the hospital’s daycare facility. All of the funds raised through this event help us as a committee to perform these other tasks throughout the year,” Fincher-Mergi said.
Other ways the program helps include rent assistance and car insurance. However, Sister Nora explained employees must also contribute some of their own money toward these expenses.
“Wherever there’s a need, we’re going to help, but at the same time we need our associates or employees to give us the documents,” Sister Nora said.
There is an application process that employees must go through, as well, which allows for a more equal distribution of the funds. In the past, employees have also been asked to attend budget class. The goal is to help employees mainly once to twice a year, according to Sister Nora.
Sister Judith explained the project has been very successful in the past.
“People love it. They can support the cause, and also win something,” Sister Judith said.
Mount St. Mary’s Hospital is located at 5300 Military Road.