Convalescent Aid Society Celebrates 85 Years of Service in the San Gabriel Valley

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The Convalescent Aid Society was founded in 1923 by a group of women in Pasadena. For more than eight decades now, CAS has been providing free medical equipment to residents of the San Gabriel Valley. Under the leadership of current Exec. Director Randy Votsch, there are more than 9,000 needy people who are currently using wheelchairs, bed pans and other equipment borrowed from a small but highly efficient staff of under 10 people. CAS also provides nursing scholarships to Pasadena Community College and Azusa Pacific University.

It has been 85 years, but Convalescent Aid Society (CAS) is still going strong, serving the people of the San Gabriel Valley by supplying medical equipment to those who need it, free of charge. Today, the Pasadena organization serves close to 9,000 clients, and it all stems from the generous vision of a small group of women more than eight decades ago.

CAS was founded in 1923 by Mrs. Carl C. Thomas of Pasadena, who was joined by several women; many of them nurses. In the early days, Convalescent Aid Society provided temporary housekeeping, nursing, and baby-sitting care in the homes of clients; bought job-related equipment and work clothes; paid occasional bills for rent or utilities; and even purchased household appliances for client families.

To support itself and the needs of its clients, CAS ran a thrift shop at the corner of Green St. and Raymond Ave. in Pasadena for many years. By the 1960s, the thrift shop had moved to 750 Colorado Blvd., and CAS was splitting its outreach services between supplying medical equipment to patients convalescing at home and providing financial assistance to needy families.

During World War II and through the Korean War, as government agencies began to offer increased assistance to needy families, CAS began to focus more on providing medical equipment at no cost.
In the '70s Esther Phipps, a retired nurse from Huntington Memorial Hospital, came on board as CAS's first caseworker. She made herself available to clients 24 hours a day and also established efficient recordkeeping and equipment inventory systems.

She visited the home of each CAS client, assessing their needs. Her husband pitched in by cleaning and repairing the equipment, much of which was stored at their home. In the 1980s, June Meader, a professional social worker, took over the leadership of the organization. For the first time, during this decade, CAS began hiring staff to deliver, clean and repair the equipment. The thrift store eventually closed, which further limited the financial assistance CAS was able to offer.

In the late 90s, at a critical time in the organization's history, CAS received a large financial gift from the estate of a prominent Pasadena resident and a new era began. An active Board of Directors prudently invested the gift and began forging a new future for the then struggling organization. They purchased a new property on Foothill Boulevard that could adequately house a client service center and provide storage space for the thousands of pieces of equipment amassed over the years. CAS also purchased a truck to pick-up and deliver larger pieces of medical equipment. Buoyed by new facilities and a dedicated staff, CAS has been able to expand its service area from Pasadena and South Pasadena to the entire San Gabriel Valley.

Under the leadership of the current executive director, Randy Votsch, the number of clients CAS serves has increased almost 400 percent in the past five years. The need for CAS services continues to grow, however. Baby boomers are aging in a difficult economy; and strained government agencies are cutting back on services. CAS will need to fortify its endowment in the coming years to ensure it is able to continue to provide the necessary services to the San Gabriel community.

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Randy Votsch

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