Suppose you’re on a fishing trip in Alaska, or it’s snowing like crazy in the foothills so you’re homebound. Meanwhile you learn a relative or friend is bedridden at Blount Memorial and you want do something to brighten their day, but you can’t get to the hospital.

The Blount Memorial Auxiliary gift shop has just the answer for that. The auxiliary has initiated an online gift shop service that is available 24/7 anywhere the internet can reach.

The new online gift shop is accessible through the hospital’s blountmemorial.org homepage and is the result of a recent partnership with California-based Hospital Gift Shop (hospitalgiftshop.com). It’s the largest network of online health care shops with 750 direct hospital partners in the United States and Canada. Friends and family members can use this tool to easily send everything from flowers and get-well cards to balloons and gifts for a new baby to Blount Memorial patients.

“It’s really a chance to brighten a patient’s day,” said Blount Memorial director of Volunteer Services Connie Slingluff. “All gifts are delivered to the patient’s bedside, and many can be done the same day, including on weekends and holidays. If the patient goes home before the gift is delivered, we can make sure it gets to their home for them,” she said.

“It’s a great, handy way to let patients know you care, that you’re hoping for their speedy recovery or just that you’re simply thinking about them.”

The Blount Memorial Auxiliary is made up of more than 250 active volunteers who donate more than 55,000 combined hours of their time each year to the hospital, making them a crucial part of the Blount Memorial team.

Every cent raised by the auxiliary through vending machine sales, fundraisers and sales at the hospital gift shop — including the new online gift shop — is donated back to the hospital or its entities.

On Aug. 26, the auxiliary continued its tradition of giving back to Blount Memorial Hospital with a donation of $131,921.

Special deliveries

Through the online service, the auxiliary can provide gifts such as edible arrangements prepared in Knoxville and delivered to patients at BMH. The gift shop in the hospital doesn’t have the capacity or equipment for that. Flowers ordered online are prepared and delivered by local florists.

“If you order online and the florist comes over here and tries to deliver, and say you were a patient and you’re not still here, it will go right back to the florist and the florist will take it to your house. That’s really nice. The customer service part is great,” Slingluff said.

She’d been looking into adding the internet service for a while.

“Lots of hospitals are partnering with this online gift shop. I network with all the gift shop managers in Knoxville and in East Tennessee. We share information,” Slingluff said.

She learned that BMH could benefit if the auxiliary expanded its offerings with an online service.

“I went online and Blount Memorial was there, but because we weren’t affiliated we weren’t getting a percentage. I was looking for ways to increase our money so we could buy more patient items for the gift shop.”

Now online is part of the Blount Memorial Auxiliary’s contribution to BMH, an added benefit for patients and their loved ones as well as to the hospital’s bottom line.

There could be more to come, maybe online access to items at the hospital gift shop, but not just yet.

“We’ll take baby steps. Maybe later on we’ll have something online that’s in the shop, be we’ve got to get this going first,” Slingluff said.

Bob has served in a variety of roles since joining The Daily Times in the 90s. He currently is editor of the business section. When someone gets promoted, retires or gets hired at a new job in Blount County, he's the man to email.

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