When you’re in the hospital, it’s the small things that go a long way toward brightening your day: a warm smile from a nurse, your favorite magazine or a good book, a bright bouquet of flowers, maybe a sweet treat or a bunch of colorful balloons. That is why the new Auxiliary Gift Shop was never an afterthought in the long-time planning of the Lundquist Tower at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Everyone involved knew the space had to be special and inviting.
The beautiful new 1,421-square-foot space—named through a gift of the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation— is exactly that. The boutique will feature specially-chosen seasonal and year-round gifts, a wide range of books and magazines, fresh flowers, toys and snacks for patients and visitors alike.
“A gift shop is very important to a hospital, because you have people who are stressed about their loved one in the hospital and want to do something kind for them but don’t want to have to hop into the car,” says Lisa Hansen, chair and trustee of the Norris Foundation. “Also, it offers a distraction for those who are worried, to buy a magazine and maybe take their mind off of the situation.”
The Foundation’s gift, naming the shop the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation Auxiliary Gift Shop, is in keeping with its history of supporting medical research, health care and hospitals. In 2013 they donated $340,000 to Torrance Memorial for a heart-lung machine. From 2002 to 2004, the Foundation donated $85,000 to the hospital’s nursing scholarship program during the height of the nursing shortage.
In addition to the Norris family’s support of medicine, the foundation also gives to groups focused on community, youth and cultural and education/ science endeavors. Simply put, says Hansen, “We want to help create a better society for the people and community who live in it.”
When Hansen, Harlyne Norris—a trustee—and Walter Zanino, executive director of the Norris Foundation and a trustee, were considering how the Foundation might contribute to the new Lundquist Tower, they were struck by the fact that the hospital’s all-volunteer gift shop has always been self-sustaining. “The gift shop generates money that goes back to the hospital,” says Hansen. “I felt, this is how important volunteers are to the hospital—it’s stunning to me that Torrance Memorial has close to 1,000 volunteers.”
The gift shop has donated more than $5 million to Torrance Memorial, in addition to thousands of hours of service given annually by volunteers. “The [self-sustainability of the gift shop] was the big turning point in making our decision,” agrees Norris. “It’s a gift that keeps on giving.”
“That was very appealing to Mrs. Norris and me when we came,” notes Zanino, whose wife, Carla, has been a volunteer at the hospital for two years. “We knew that we could give this gift and it would continue on for many years into the future, probably creating a multiple of what we actually gave.”
For the Foundation’s leaders, the link to Torrance Memorial goes well beyond a simple donation. All three are residents of the South Bay, so the connection to the hospital is very personal.
“It’s just so fantastic, from a selfish point of view, that the hospital is in my backyard—in all of our backyards,” says Hansen. “I’m beaming with pride. We’re really proud of the work that Torrance Memorial does and that we have a partnership like we do, because it does such good work for the citizens of Torrance.”
Hansen, Norris and Zanino have also seen how, over the years, the hospital’s gift shop has been something of a crossroads for visitors, patients and staff who come through Torrance Memorial’s doors, making it a hub of what goes on at the hospital, day in and day out.
“What’s amazing is how well the hospital takes care of and puts their arms around the gift shops they have,” says Hansen. “I think the volunteers are super-excited about having this shiny new place; you can’t help but want to go in. A gift shop is a vital part of any hospital.“
Adds Norris, “It’s kind of a happy place too. We are proud to be a part of it.”