By Misty Volaski
You probably drive by it at least once a week. But unless you need it, the Ojai Valley Community Hospital is just another building along Maricopa Highway.
Peggy Russell discovered that fact several years ago, when she fell off a horse and crushed her pelvis. “Dr. Gross came in — he was at his daughter’s recital, I think — and they took such good care of me,” she recalled. “It was such a relief to have the hospital there; we’re so fortunate to have it.”
After that accident, Russell and her husband, John, were inspired to give back to the hospital. This year, the two co-chaired the ninth annual Nightingale Ball, the Ojai Hospital Foundation’s main fund-raising event of the year, which found 250 people at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, enjoying dinner, drinks and an auction last weekend.
Auction items included a trip to Sedona, an appetizers-and-drinks cruise aboard the cruise ship Talofa and an intricate handmade quilt, along with catered “dream dinners” at local mansions. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa had originally agreed to donate one-night stays and rounds of golf to the auction, but, said Russell, “Janice Clapoff (OVI managing director) came up to me that night and asked if she could change that to a stay for 10 at Casa Elar,” the OVI’s high-end villa. “That hit us by surprise — talk about generosity! That one (auctioned) for quite a bit of money.”
The auction was split into two parts — one with items up for bids, and the other a “Fund a Need” auction, where attendees could donate toward specific items on the hospital’s wish list. “I was tearing up, watching the hands go up” during that portion, said foundation director Chris Rock. “You realize just how many good people we have in this community.”
This year’s ball raised approximately $130,000, Rock added. “That’s phenomenal in these economic times! This community is so generous, so giving.”
Of that money, $30,000 will go toward the purchase of three new critical care beds, “which have all the bells and whistles to change the position of the patient,” said Russell.
“I ordered them Monday morning!” said Rock.
Although the Ojai Valley Community Hospital is part of the Community Memorial Health System, the funds will be used exclusively to improve the Ojai hospital. Other money raised will go toward the continuing modernization of the Emergency Room, and to a much-needed interior face-lift for the Continuing Care Center, located behind the hospital. Rock credited volunteer Barbara Haggerty for gathering the auction items this year.
“We just really appreciate the whole community and their support of the hospital,” Rock said. “It’s truly a community taking care of a community. That’s what it’s all about.”