History of the Volunteer Council

The Story of a Non-Profit

The Volunteer Services Council for Rusk State Hospital began functioning in May of 1954 serving approximately 2700 patients.  They started with $100 and a handful of Red Cross Volunteers.  On September 13, 1971, the council incorporated, thus becoming known as Volunteer Council For the Rusk State Hospital, Inc.  Over the years, there have been many changes within the Volunteer Council itself, as well as projects supported by the council.  Regardless of the changes, the overall goal of the council has been to serve the patients of Rusk State Hospital.

The most common patient provision that has been provided by the council over the years is “patient activities”.  These activities have included various parties, carnivals, dances, celebrity entertainment, dog shows, ski shows, provisions for patients during hurricane evacuations, ice cream socials, Easter egg hunts, cultural celebrations, fishing, sponsorship of patients to go on field trips to various places including, but not limited to, East Texas State Fair, State Fair of Texas, Rodeo, Circus, local shopping trips and restaurant visits.

The council has also been supportive of many therapeutic classes and activities.  In fact, in the early years of the council, patients enrolled in the cooking class provided meals for the council meeting. In addition to cooking classes, there have also been classes on ceramics, china painting, horticulture, agriculture, art, sewing, tobacco cessation, peer training, and yoga.  Other activities supported by the council have included a book club, food show, spa day, Pet Therapy, Adopt-A-Patient, and behavior incentive programs.

There have been a few large projects completed that have greatly contributed to increasing the quality of a patients stay while at Rusk State Hospital.  In 1971, the council funded the Fredrick M. Hedge Therapy & Wilderness Campsite.  This included everything from the construction of many structures, installing water lines, installing electricity, and building piers, to the purchase of machinery, tools, linens, and landscaping.  Costing around $200,000 in 1971, this gift from the council has been and continues to be a great asset to the patients at Rusk State Hospital.  An interesting fact about this project is that the entrance to the wilderness campsite is built from brick that was found while digging up the ground to install water lines.  There have also been many animals provided to the farm by the council.  In addition to the campsite, the council was also responsible for the Rosa May Griffin Library, the All-Faith Chapel for the Skyview Maximum Security Unit, the Therapeutic Work Center, a Patient Shopping Center, the purchase of a barge, washing machines for the wards, decorating of rooms on the wards, basketball court fencing, recreational equipment, computers, and the beautification of hospital grounds through the planting of trees, shrubs and flowers.

There are a few ways that the council has been a benefit to the community, as well as to our patients.  In 1986, members of the council had a letter writing campaign to various government officials expressing concern about possibly losing Smith County from the Rusk State Hospital Service area.  At the time, the council received a substantial amount of funding from the Smith County area.  In 1983, a 4H was established through the council.  The students used the garden and the farm animals for their educational purposes through this program.  Patients who worked the farm were instrumental in assisting in their own financial support by selling the produce from the gardens to the locals in the community.

Finally, the biggest asset to the council are the volunteers and donors.  Without them, the council would not be able to provide as they do.  Donors are instrumental in the funding of the projects and programs.  Funding is also secured through various fundraisers.  Past and current fundraisers include black tie dinners, a fishing tournament, an art show, a no play golf tournament, a resale shop, an annual garage sale, and 4th of July and Christmas solicitation projects.  Some of our donors are also volunteers.  Volunteers help in many ways. They help with the day to day operations, parties, painting murals, cleaning and storage, planning, decorating, and working the two banquets that are put on for employees, volunteers and donors every year.  In the early years of the council, there were junior volunteers who came in and served punch to the bedridden patients.  FHA students would also come to hand out Christmas Cards to patients.  To this day, volunteers and donors are the backbone to the council.

Whether the council was operating from a budget of approximately $400 a year in the 1950’s to approximately $40,000 a year today, providing for the patients will continue to be the top priority.  The needs of the patients have changed little over the years.  It is this priority that makes a patients stay at Rusk State Hospital a positive and therapeutic venture on their road to recovery.