The roots of Mercy Service League run deep, and the group’s history has a direct lineage from Mercy’s founders, the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine.
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The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine were strong advocates of social justice and ventured from France to northeast Ohio to care for the orphans and the sick in 1851. Mercy’s historic records document that in the summer of 1908, the Sisters asked community women to volunteer to help them by sewing bandages and marking linens for a new hospital they were establishing in a home donated by Rosa Klorer which was the former home of President William McKinley. This group’s name, Succora Sewing Circle, was derived from the word “succor” (Latin and French origins), meaning “to help, giving affectionate care and social support.”
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The Succora Sewing Circle met weekly and expanded their efforts by holding festivals in the community. The proceeds were donated to the hospital to furnish rooms and provide equipment. Later, another group of women, the Cornelia Circle, evolved. Also supporters of the Sisters of Charity, the Cornelia Circle focused on more complicated sewing projects.
Mercy’s archives also cite a third group of charitable women called St. Ann’s Circle of Mercy Hospital. This group of 80 women raised funds and collected supplies to meet the needs of the hospital.
In 1937, all these entities combined to form one group called the Circle of Mercy. They met weekly, volunteered many hours, marked linens, and raised funds for designated needs of the hospital.
Hospital Explores New Women’s Auxillary Group in 1975
In January of 1975, Nancy Levitin, Mercy’s director of public relations, and Lu Wabschall, director of volunteer services, held a meeting of 28 community women to discuss a new hospital women’s auxillary. Jane Schirack, a medical technologist at Mercy until her marriage to Dr. Frank Schirack in 1950, chaired the initiative as the group explored their formal structure, constitution, and short- and long-term goals. Kathleen Brauchler, a member of that steering committee, continues to be an active Mercy Service League today.
The efforts of the steering committee resulted in the formation of what was then called the Timken Mercy Service League, which held its first meeting on January 26, 1976, and presented an organizational charter in May of the same year.
The group adopted a mission statement that remains the same today:
To support the ideals and philosophies of Mercy Medical Center and the ministry of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine through service, outreach, education, and fundraising.
Accomplishments of Mercy Service League Presidents & Their Teams
Jane Schirack, 1976 – 1978
Jane, who died in 2013, paved the way for fresh flowers to be available for sale in the hospital. Under her tenure, the league also assumed management of the Mercy Gift Shop.
In addition, Jane and her committee:
- Hosted Six Doorways to Spring
- Published For Mercy’s Sake, a household hint book
- Started a memorial tribute fund called Encomium
- Held the first Tannebaum Treasures at her home, a showing of gift shop Christmas items
- Pledged $250,000 over three years to the Mercy Emergency Department
Kathleen Brauchler, 1978 – 1980
During Kathleen’s tenure, she oversaw the relocation of Mercy Gift Shop.
In addition, Kathleen and her team:
- Created the Autumn in Avondale and A’Faire with Flair events
- Sponsored an award-winning float in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Parade
- Established a service league newsletter
- Held the Bloomin’ Plant Sale
- Hosted Tannenbaum Treasures at Congress Lake Country Club
- Presented the check for the emergency department pledge
Norma Elsaesser, 1980 – 1982
During Norma’s years as president of Mercy Service League, she continued to build the group’s membership.
With the help of league members, she also:
- Hosted the Tour of Homes in Northwest Canton’s Ridgewood neighborhood
- Offered Carriages at Six at Hannon Farms
- Formed a pledge committee to review the areas of need at Mercy
- Sponsored a Pro-Am Golf Tournament at Brookside Country Club
- Purchased a cooler for fresh flower sales in the hospital lobby
- Pledged $300,000 over three years for air conditioning of patient-care areas
Ann Seanor, 1982 – 1983
Ann hosted the service league’s first Designer Show House at Quail Hollow.
In addition, Ann and the service league:
- Sponsored the Pro-Am Golf Tournament
- Hosted a Bridge Marathon
- Featured Tannebaum Treasures at the Civic Center
- Hosted the Grand Opening of a new Mercy Gift Shop and Fresh Flower Shop
Linda Simmons Osborne, 1983 – 1985
Linda assisted the then Timken Mercy Hospital in celebrating its 75th anniversary and worked with Sister Joan Gallagher, CSA, as the service league’s hospital liaison.
Linda and her team also:
- Hosted Tannebaum Treasures at the Civic Center
- Initiated a new fundraiser, La Rummage Sale
- Purchased infant formula and diapers, as well as a computer for Mercy Gift Shop
- Welcomed 21 new members
- Hosted an Evening of Elegance
- Decorated the hospital’s Christmas tree in the lobby
- Printed an hors-d’oeuvre cookbook
- Completed the $300,000 gift for air conditioning and pledged a further $346,000 for a mammography system and the development of a child and adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit over three years
Karen Belden, 1985 – 1987
Karen initiated an orientation program for new members. She and the service league members also:
- Hosted an Evening of Elegance
- Celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Mercy Service League
- Held an hors-d’oeuvre and wine party
- Broke all previous profit records in the gift shop
- Helped with the sale of linens by the Sisters of Mercy
- Welcomed 19 new members
- Sold a cookbook, Tempting Morsels Served with Love
Carol Holsinger, 1987 – 1988
During her presidency, Carol hosted the second Designer Show House, Castle on the Hill, at Case Mansion.
In addition, Carol and the committee:
- Purchased a new fresh flower cooler, hospitality cart, wallpaper, and carpeting for the gift shop and a multipurpose van for the hospital
- Held a new fundraiser, the Kentucky Derby Party
- Fulfilled the $346,000 pledge to the hospital
Gretchen Graham, 1988 – 1990
Under Gretchen’s tenure, the service league pledged $500,000 for the Timken Mercy Regional Heart Center.
In addtion, she and the service league members:
- Redecorated the radiation therapy room
- Printed and distributed medical authorization forms for children and the elderly
- Held the third Designer Show House
- Purchased a TV and answering machine for the volunteer office
Margaret (Peggy) Howley, 1990 – 1992
During her time as president, Peggy oversaw the renovation of Mercy Gift Shop and completed the heart center pledge six months early.
In addition, Peggy and her team:
- Pledged $750,000 for the rehab unit and expansion of Mercy Progressive Care Services for ventilator dependent patients
- Logged over 12,000 volunteer hours in one year
- Welcomed 24 new members
- Financially assisted with sponsoring Mercy in the Corporate Cup
- Celebrated the Mercy Service League’s 15th anniversary with a dinner, Reflections
- Hosted Gateway to a Spatacular Event
- Conducted a Tour of Gracious Homes at Glenmoor
Vicki Conley, 1992 – 1993
Vicki hosted 25 new members at an intern tea and sponsored the Open Heart Open.
In addition, Vicki and service league:
- Oversaw the 4th Designer Show House, The Manor at Carriage Hill
- Appointed three representatives to the Timken Mercy Development Board Steering Committee
- Recorded record sales in the gift shop
- Hosted the Kentucky Derby Party
Jane Smyth, 1993 – 1995
Under Jane’s tenure, Mercy Service League pledged $1,020,000 over five years to the end-stage renal dialysis, peritoneal unit, and regional heart center operating room upgrades, as well as a dedicated mammography unit.
In addition, Jane and the league members:
- Presented a new fundraiser, a murder mystery event
- Hosted the Kentucky Derby Party
- Welcomed 12 new members
Sara Queen Goff, 1995 – 1996
As Sara began her tenure in November of 1995, the Sisters of Charity formed a 50/50 partnership with Columbia HCA, a for-profit healthcare system which resulted in the disbandment of the Mercy Service League in May of 1996. The proceeds from the Mercy Service League fundraisers were presented to a teen abstinence education program, Mercy Pet Patrol and Skyline Terrace Summer Camp.
Donna Shaheen, 2001 – 2003
Upon dissolution of the partnership between Mercy and Columbia HCA, Donna led the reorganization of the service league with the same mission and bylaws.
She and her team members also:
- Instituted the Giving Tree, which included book and toys for the pediatric unit
- Secured a Hoover Foundation grant for items for the emergency department
- Reintroduced the fundraiser Tannebaum Treasures
- Introduced a new event, a tennis social event called Show Your Love, Serve Up a Cure
- Restored and reissued the book, Fore Mercy’s Sake
- Offered a Stein Mart VIP Shopping Event
- Developed a strategic plan for the service league
- Hosted a signature gala event, Moonlight and Roses, with the proceeds designated to the cardiac center
Carol Klimo, 2003 – 2005
Under Carol’s tenure, the service league had a jewelry and book sale; hosted Food, Fashion and Fun with Stein Mart; and fulfilled a pledge of $115,000 to Mercy Cancer Center for the Mercy Boutique. This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of this shop.
Carol and her team also:
- Celebrated having 100 members in the organization
- Replaced Tannebaum Treasures with Harvest Treasures, a three-day shopping event held at the Canton Cultural Center
- Conducted the Ultimate Treasure Raffle, a shopping spree with Gasser Jewelers
- Hosted the first Celebrity Bartending Night
- Reinstituted the newsletter as an important communication tool
Linda Gill, 2005 – 2007
Under Linda’s tenure, Harvest Treasures evolved to Harvest Ball, which helped raise $200,000 was raised for the new ICU.
In addition, Linda and the service league:
- Established service league outreach activities to Canton City’s Summit School as part of the PALS Reading Program
- Maintained high levels of membership
- Hosted Harvest Treasures Merchant and Artisan Shopping Fair
- Hosted the first Show Your Love, Strike Up a Cure bowling party
Karen Bostrom, 2007 – 2009
During Karen’s presidency, the service league assisted Mercy as we celebrated our 100th anniversary.
Plus, she and her team:
- Hosted the Centennial Harvest Ball with more than 400 guests that raised over $200,000 for the ICU
- Offered a Japanese Art Exhibit with students of Summit School
Christine Ridgway, 2009 – 2011
While Christine was president, the Mercy Service League raised $189,000 for the new Mercy Emergency Department Project.
She and her team also:
- Assisted with the hospital’s Founder’s Day event
- Continued the PALS Reading Program
- Hosted the Moon Over the Mediterranean Harvest Ball
- Implemented the first $10,000 Cash Raffle
- Offered fall and spring treasure vendor sales
Linda Ganser, 2011 – 2013
During Linda’s years as president, the service league hosted the White Hot Harvest Ball and completed the $750,000 pledge to the Mercy Emergency Department.
She and the service league also:
- Offered fall and spring vendor sales
- Hosted Celebrity Bartending events
- Introduced a new fundraiser, Chateau Noel, a Christmas extravaganza
Joni Locke, 2013 – 2015
Both Harvest Balls under Joni’s tenure supported Mercy Dental Services’ General Practice Residency program and endowment.
Joni and team members also:
- Hosted Celebrity Bartending events
- Offered Holiday Treasures sale
- Introduced a new fundraiser, The Souper Bowl, a food and friendship event
Anna Mavrakis, 2015 –
Under Anna’s leadership, the Mercy Service League continues to grow. She and her team recently hosted the Ignite the Night Harvest Ball, which raised more than $300,000 for Mercy Facility Transformation Phase 1, 5th Floor Orthopedic/Observation Unit.
Sister Mary Patricia Barrett, a Guiding Force
Any Mercy Service League history would not be complete without recognizing the guiding force of Sister Mary Patricia Barrett, CSA (1926 – 2015). She was the general superior of her order from 1973-1981 and later served as the CEO of the health system. She inspired the service league, built it up, attended as many service league events as possible, and always thanked the group.
Sister Mary Patricia was very wise when she recognized the decreasing numbers and the aging of the Sisters in her order. She called the Mercy Service League an extension of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine and Keepers of the Mission of Mercy.
She once said, “I could not complete the story of Mercy’s heritage without recognizing the tremendous work of the Mercy Service League. I have never met a more talented and creative group of women who have sponsored so many unique fundraising events for the medical center. God Bless each of them.”