Our organization was incorporated in 1966 as the Saint Mary Hospital Woman’s Auxiliary. It was organized as a nonprofit whose mission was to raise funds and provide volunteers for Saint Mary Hospital which had just embarked on a complete rebuilding of the hospital. Mrs. Elsa Willenborg, a long-time benefactor of the hospital, was instrumental in organizing the Auxiliary. Its charter president was Mrs. Louis DePascale. Sister Felicitas Lichtenauer of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, the hospital president, was our first moderator and remained in that position for more than 30 years.
Membership teas were held and women from a wide spectrum of the community became members, along with the wives of staff physicians. The organization soon became both a financial and social success. Within three years it achieved its first goal – raising $50,000 for the Dr. Kiely Memorial Laboratory in the newly erected South Building. Its annual luncheon and fashion show was a citywide social event and attended by hundreds of women. Over the next 45 years, the Auxiliary raised over 2.7 million dollars for the hospital.
Initially, funds were raised from the proceeds of volunteers working at the hospital gift shop and by fundraisers such as the annual luncheon. In 1976 a Thrift Store was opened. Its first location was at 409 Fourth Street. In 1978 it moved to 601 Bloomfield Street. In 1982 the Thrift Store moved to 536 garden Street where it is still operating. The thrift store not only raises funds- but also provides clothing, toys, and other items at very inexpensive prices. The first four women volunteers associated with the Thrift Store illustrate how wide community support was. Lucille Casulli, born and bred in Hoboken and mother of four young children, founded the store. The first volunteer manager, Nikki Councilman, a TV commercial actress, was a relative newcomer to Hoboken. She was followed by Shirley Ondrick, wife of a Stevens professor. Shirley was followed by Madelaine Spadavecchia, a highly respected biology teacher at Hoboken High School.
Besides raising funds for the hospital, the Auxiliary aided the community in a variety of ways. Examples include providing and installing Lifeline Home Alert Systems for Hudson County elderly, awarding financial scholarships to nursing students, and raising funds for breast cancer awareness.
In 1976 the bylaws were changed so that men could become members and our name was changed to Saint Mary Auxiliary
In 2007 a municipal authority purchased the hospital and changed its name to Hoboken University Medical Center. We continued to support the hospital and changed our name to the Hoboken University Medical Center Auxiliary.
In 2011 the hospital was bought by a for-profit organization. By law, a for-profit hospital can not accept any gifts from a nonprofit organization. Since our corporate charter indicated that our funds had to be primarily used for the hospital we dissolved the HUMC Auxiliary Corporation and created a new nonprofit corporation – St. Mary Advocates, Inc. Our new charter is to aid the community in areas related to health and education.