Volunteering is part of the beating heart of the Hospice and Saint Francis Hospice is celebrating Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), by putting the spotlight on the amazing supporters who give their time, skills and experience to help local people who need love and care.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on our dedicated volunteers who support every area of the Hospice and over the three national lockdowns, many were unable to continue their roles because of the restrictions in place to keep everyone safe.
Pam Court, Chief Executive of Saint Francis Hospice, said: “On behalf of all the patients, families and staff, we would like to say a massive thank you to each and every one of our wonderful volunteers who give us their time, skills and experience with so much love and dedication?
“Our volunteers really are the beating heart of the Hospice and this will never change.
“We know what a challenging year it has been for everyone and as we move forward, we will always look back at 2020/2021 with pride at how, in the most difficult time of our lives, our volunteers did everything they could to make a difference to the lives of local people when they needed it the most.
“For those who’ve had to shield or couldn’t volunteer because the restrictions affected their role –You’ve always been in our thoughts and we have missed you so much. We’ve heard so many heart-warming stories so we know many of you never stopped wanting to support us and found new ways to care and support your local community.
“And to those who were able to continue, such as the volunteers who run our confidential telephone service OrangeLine and our bereavement services to patients and families. It is testament to your commitment to providing these vital services that you adapted quickly to home working and new technologies so you could be there to listen and support people who are lonely, isolated or bereaved.”
With the successful role out of the Covid-19 vaccine and life slowly returning to some kind of normal, the Hospice was thrilled to welcome back retail volunteers when their shops re-opened in April. They are looking forward to seeing more volunteers as they work towards restoring services.
To find out more about volunteering opportunities at your local hospice, visit sfh.org.uk/volunteer or email us at email@example.com
Our charity shops are full of exciting surprises but when Louise Milton-White decided to volunteer at our Brentwood store, she had no idea that she’d find love, friendship and happiness.
Louise gave up her 38 year career as a criminal lawyer to care for her husband Darren as he battled bile duct cancer.
Darren had been under the care of the experienced teams at Saint Francis Hospice and had spent six weeks on the ward in 2016 to help manage his pain and symptoms and during his final stay on the ward in August 2017, Louise was able to spend precious time with him.
“Darren fought the cancer bravely,” said Louise.
“He had major surgery to remove half his liver which was unsuccessful. He then had extensive chemotherapy and selective internal radiation therapy until he eventually succumbed. He asked to spend his final days in the Hospice.
“As soon as the Hospice became involved, we were made to feel as if we were part of the family – there was so love and support around us.
“The 24-hour advice line really became a lifeline too. It was such a scary time and I would not have been able to care for Darren at home for as long as I did without the support of the nurses.
“They really were amazing and it helped me to feel confident that I was doing everything I could for Darren and I knew I could always ring up and speak to someone if there was a problem or if I was worried about anything.”
Darren was just 49 when he died. The couple had been married for 22 years and his death had a devastating impact on Louise. She was still coming to terms with her loss when, with the support of her GP, she went into the charity’s Brentwood shop to enquire about volunteering.
“I’m a bit of a snob and this was the first time I’d been into a charity shop,” said Louise. “But I felt the time was right to give something back to the Hospice.
“I was put on the till and I loved volunteering in the shop straight-away. I thought it was wonderful how people wanted to support the Hospice so much that they wanted to make donations and buy preloved clothing and goods.
“All the ladies I volunteer with are now my friends and we now meet up and socialise outside of the shop too.”
The following year, the shop manager noticed Louise was struggling emotionally and encouraged her to book a holiday as the travel agent was next to the shop – and it was while she was on her break to Lanzarote that she met her new partner Eddy, who is from Holland.
“I am a people person and I know Darren would not have wanted me to be on my own,” said Louise.
“Eddy is such a wonderful kind man and even he has been helping at the shop too.”
Volunteering has become an important part of Louise’s life and now the lockdown restrictions have eased, she’s thrilled to be back doing what she loves best.
“I am so passionate about raising money for the Hospice,” said Louise. “I still get excited when we meet our targets and it makes my day when I price something up and it sells.”
Louise’s experience of Hospice care has also made her want to leave a lasting legacy and this is why she has chosen to leave a gift in her will so more people and families like her and Darren can benefit from the experienced care and love they received when they needed it the most.
“The Hospice provides such a valuable service but it needs to raise so much money every year to be able to do so,” said Louise.
“I don’t have any children but I want to do whatever I can to help other people and families get the care and support they may need, just like we did.”