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Columbus Community Hospital earlier this week commemorated an important part of its history with the unveiling of its brand new “Respect For Service” statue outside of the facility.

The statue, which was commissioned and donated by the former Columbus Community Hospital Auxiliary, was dedicated in honor of those who continue their work today as volunteers. The Auxiliary, which is no longer active, supported the financial and service endeavors of CCH for more than 40 years. From the early 1970s until its merger with the volunteer program in April 2016, the Auxiliary donated more than $1.8 million to the hospital for program advancement and the purchase of medical equipment.

“I loved being in the Auxiliary and I felt very sad when it disbanded,” said Shirley Hroza, a former member of the Columbus Community Hospital Auxiliary, who attended the Tuesday ceremony. “This is something that I’ve been looking forward to for two years … so this is a dream come true for me.”

The bronze statue, weighing between 200-300 pounds, was placed in front the main entrance of the hospital, 4600 38th St.

Hroza said throughout the years of service, the Auxiliary gathered an upward of $2 million for the hospital from its fundraising efforts, such as bake sales, book fairs, snack sales and jewelry shows.

“There’s always a need,” she said.

Mike Hansen, president and CEO of Columbus Community Hospital, said funding from the Auxiliary has helped the hospital purchase new equipment and supplies, which enabled the continuous growth of the facility.

“It’s just very selfless of them to volunteer and really support our hospital and we really appreciated that over the years. I think this is a great testimony to what they did over that time,” Hansen said.

Although many of the ladies serving on the Auxiliary have moved on to different endeavors, some stayed on to continue as volunteers, such as Hroza.

“After the Auxiliary went by the wayside, I told the Foundation board that we are not going to drop the fundraising,” Hroza said. “We will still do that.”

Since joining the Auxiliary 16 years ago, Hroza has helped with fundraisers and ultimately landed herself as its president. She currently volunteers twice a month at The Gift Shop in the hospital.

Former Auxiliary members worked closely with Fred Hoppe, who was the artist behind the iconic 5,000-pound mammoth sculpture in front of Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the statue of former Husker football coach Tom Osborne at Memorial Stadium.

Hoppe expressed his familiarity with the Auxiliary’s efforts throughout the years from his mother, who was a former member. He said the majority of his clientele consist of out-of-state individuals, as well as international customers, so he was glad to have his artwork showcased in his hometown.

“I was really pleased when I saw how well (the main entrance) was designed,” Hoppe said. “It’s a really beautiful entry here and then to add that bronze; I am honored to have one here.”

The statue offers a warm welcome to hospital visitors, as it features a woman wearing a 1940s-inspired dress, which was draped to showcase its movement in the wind, and features an exact replica of a former Auxiliary member’s shoes.

“The Auxiliary is made up of all ladies, so we wanted to make sure that we have a lady that was representative of the Auxiliary and just the caring and compassion that the group had for our hospital and the community,” Hansen said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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