Sisters Edith Vogel and Rose Mengwasser have been involved with the St. Mary's Hospital Auxiliary's Ice Cream Social since it began 62 years ago.
The two stood elbow-to-elbow late Wednesday morning as they helped serve hundreds of people streaming into the St. Joseph Cathedral Undercroft for lunch and ice cream. As children, they helped serve during the very first ice cream social, which raises funds for the auxiliary.
The women's family has been involved with the hospital since long before the first social. Their grandfather donated the land for the hospital (which stood alongside Missouri Boulevard for more than 100 years, before its parent company — SSM Health, based out of St. Louis — built a new hospital on the west side of town).
"The first couple of years, it was just ice cream and cake," Vogel said. "Then my father brought out a barbecue grill and cooked hot dogs."
Nearly everybody in the family was involved with the hospital over the years, she said. Mengwasser was a switchboard operator and a candy-striper. Vogel was a nurse for a period.
Family members felt an obligation to help with the annual ice cream social, which was at the hospital, unless something interfered.
When there was construction at the hospital or some other activity that prevented the safe presentation of the social, it moved about.
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Eventually, it found its way to the undercroft, where it has remained for more than a decade, Vogel said.
More than 1,200 people were expected to attend Wednesday's event.
As large as the event is — it raises about $20,000 annually for the auxiliary — it takes a community to put it together, St. Mary's Foundation Director Bev Stafford said.
Organizers begin planning the event near the beginning of the year, Stafford said. And with parking, cooking, donated cakes, a silent auction, a book nook, a raffle and many other activities to be planned, the event requires 26 committee chairs and more than 300 volunteers.
"These are the kinds of things that engage people all year long," Stafford said. "This is the event that keeps our retiree alumni involved."
Bob Wankum, a retired opthalmologist, stood at a table dishing up ice cream for people attending the social.
The line slowed, his colleagues joked, because so many people wanted to stop and talk with him.
Wankum said he was another of those people who had long ties with the social.
"I first scooped ice cream here when I was 12," Wankum said.
And he interacts with people, which is a purpose of the event, said Lisa Steppelman, the hospital's manager for the gift shop and auxiliary operations.
"We've got right at 300 volunteers. They've got this down. They help each other, they sit and they socialize," Steppelman said. "This is the event that I look most forward to every year. It's a cornerstone event of our auxiliary operation."