During the Christmas season of 1906, the Reverend Dr. Lewis Brown, rector of the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, invited five young ladies to accompany him to every hospital in town to spread Christmas cheer. Christmas cards made by the ladies with verses written by James Whitcomb Riley and trimmed with sprigs of holly were given to each patient visited.
Early the following year, Dr. Brown received a note of appreciation with a check for $5.00 that was to be used “at the discretion of the young ladies.” On March 31, 1907, St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild was formed. It was named after Queen Margaret of Scotland who performed countless charitable works. The original members were Jessie Cleaveland (who became Mrs. William Mullen), her sister, Mrs. Fred Schnabel, Emily McGibney, Georgiana Bond, Josephine Morris and Agnes Brown.
As friend invited friend to join the Guild, it outgrew its parish orientation and soon became non-sectarian. Through the years, the Guild has grown, but it has been true to its original purpose – to provide care and support to hospital patients through direct service and fund raising projects.
One of its first efforts culminated in the establishment of a circulating library at City Hospital, which became Wishard Memorial Hospital. By sponsoring a series of “book teas”, the ladies rounded up more than 1,400 volumes and acknowledged the Guild’s religious origins by presenting the first Bible to the hospital.
In the early days, they were most concerned about children. They did everything from decorating to entertaining in the children’s ward. In 1914, the Guild helped to equip the children’s and babies’ wards and began a tradition of providing pajamas, slippers and toys to young patients. Originally, the members made the pajamas themselves.
In 1926, the Guild joined in an experimental program to establish an occupational therapy department at the hospital. St. Margaret’s Guild raised funds to buy supplies and equipment and underwrote the therapists’ salaries for many years.
Over the years, projects to raise funds have been many and varied – a lending library, sponsorship of a ballet, lectures, an antique
automobile show, baseball game, Liberace program, boat races, and the premiere of Raintree County. Members have assisted at a local flower shop and various auctions and plays.
They have garnered proceeds from the sale of items made in occupational therapy, from magazine subscriptions, hosiery and vending machines, Indiana Saddle Horse Association Round-ups, Western Open Table Tennis Tournaments, the National Carnation Show at the Indiana Roof, style shows and a Christmas Ball.
In 1960, new member Dessie Partenheimer Koch proposed a fundraising project to the Guild. Dessie had just moved from Hillsboro, CA (south of San Francisco) where she volunteered with the San Mateo Children’s Guild. They had begun a practice of taking empty mansions, sprucing them up and showcasing their work to the public to earn money for the Children’s Museum. Dessie had just chaired the third mansion, the home of the family who founded Spreckles Sugar. Her suggestion met with enthusiastic reception and the first Indianapolis Decorators’ Show House and Gardens debuted in 1962. This has been the Guild’s most successful effort to date in terms of revenue. Proceeds from this annual event have funded the burn unit, radiology, two mobile mammography vans, Newborn and Special Care Nursery renovation, a Mother’s Milk Bank, ambulance services and responded to the needs of the Rehabilitation and Medicine departments. Most recently, proceeds from the DSH have benefitted the patient and employee wellness initiatives and STOP – Stop Taking on Pounds, targeted to children, and in turn teaching their parents. In all, the Decorators’ Show House and Gardens has raised over 12 million dollars for Eskenazi Health Services (originally Wishard Hospital).
St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild is proud to be one of the pioneer volunteer groups of the city of Indianapolis. The Guild is grateful to the designers, landscape architects, sponsors, individuals, corporations and donors of in-kind services who make the Decorators’ Show House possible. The women of St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild pledge to continue to support their community through fund raising activities that benefit the underserved at Eskenazi Health.
In 2012, the Guild voted to sponsor Limestone Falls at the new Eskenazi Hospital. This area will provide serenity, as well as a long-lasting beauty, for patients, family members and medical staff. The Guild was honored to be approached for the naming
rights to Limestone Falls and hopes many enjoy its beauty and find renewed energy for healing. The Guild also sponsored HealthyMe which includes fitness classes at the hospital, walking groups, smoking cessation programs and support from nutritionists.