Dotty Gottdenker, left, and Leslie Poole pose for a photo June 16 at the Hilton Head Hospital Auxiliary gift shop. COURTESY THE HOSPITAL AUXILIARY

Hospital gift shops offer patients, visitors and staff convenient access to snacks, unique gifts, balloons and flower arrangements. They are often a place of respite for loved ones visiting patients and for hardworking staff members who just need a moment to breathe.

Run by the nonprofit Hospital Auxiliary and its volunteers, the gift shops at Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital also contribute thousands of dollars every year to help patients in need through the Auxiliary Caring Touch Program.

After being closed for more than a year due to the pandemic, the two gift shops reopened in Spring 2021. Unfortunately, the shops don’t have as many volunteers as they once had. Some moved away. Others began volunteering elsewhere while the gift shops were closed.

Dotty Gottdenker oversees both gift shops and has worked tirelessly to keep them running since reopening. She has had to scale back the shops’ hours because she doesn’t have enough volunteers.

Now she is desperately looking for more people to volunteer their time assisting customers, running the cash registers and maintaining the two shops.

“When we did open up the gift shop again, it was the first department to open up after COVID, to the delight of the hospital, the patients, the visitors and the staff,” Gottdenker said. “The nurses who were still treating COVID patients would like to get out of that area, and they would come in and browse around. It just gets them into a new environment.”

Gottdenker is passionate about the Auxiliary Caring Touch (ACT) program, which she started in 1994, when the hospital became a for-profit organization.

The program assists patients with the cost of prescription medicines, medical equipment and infant car seats. It also provides emergency transportation for patients who need help getting to and from medical appointments.

Since its inception, the ACT program has contributed more than $677,000 to patients of Hilton Head Hospital, Coastal Carolina Hospital, and the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton Volunteers in Medicine clinics, according to the Hospital Auxiliary’s website.

Leslie Poole has volunteered at Hilton Head Hospital for the past seven years. She spends two days a week working at the front desk and two days a week in the gift shop.

Poole enjoys working in the gift shop so she can be there for anyone needing a word of kindness or a friendly ear.

“You can be that person somebody needs to talk to,” Poole said.

Gift shops hours at Hilton Head Hospital are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours at Coastal Carolina are weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information on the gift shops at Hilton Head and Coastal Carolina Hospitals, visit To place an order for flower or gift delivery to patients, call the Hilton Head Hospital shop at 843-689-8459 or the Coastal Carolina Hospital shop at 843-784-8191. All items are tax free, and the shops do not charge for delivery to hospital rooms.

To volunteer at one of the gift shops, call 843-689-8201 or 843-689-8247.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.