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Thanks a million - hospice highlights the incredible contribution of volunteers

Every year hundreds of volunteers give up their time to ensure Saint Francis Hospice can provide the highest quality of care to patients and families at the most difficult time in their lives.
L-R Lynn Stanley Nicola Winsley Sue Collins Ingrid Bean (2)
There are currently 860 volunteers who work in every part of the charity from the Inpatient Ward, Day Therapy Unit and gardens to fundraising and the shops and over the last year they worked an incredible 169,000 hours and saved the hospice £2 million in staff costs. 

As part of Volunteers' Week (1-12 June) the hospice will be celebrating the hard work and dedication of our unpaid workforce and hosting three evenings in June and July (June 9th, June 23rd and July 6th) to formally thank them for their invaluable contribution to the hospice. 

During the evenings a number of Long Service Awards will also be presented to volunteers having completed five, ten, fifteen, twenty and twenty-five years of service.

Gill Wendelken, Voluntary Services Manager at the hospice, said, "Saint Francis Hospice uses the special opportunity provided by the National UK Volunteer Week to show its appreciation for all its volunteers, totalling 860 people, who are such an essential part of the service provided to the community.

"The thousands of hours, personal skills and life experiences the volunteers bring to the hospice organisation is absolutely priceless."

The hospice is always on the lookout for volunteers with different skills, particularly in the following areas: shops, patient care, manning a new telephone service for people who are isolated or lonely, garden, complementary therapy and drivers to bring people to the Day Therapy Unit at the hospice. 

If you are interested in any of these roles, even if you have just a few hours to spare every month, please contact Gill on 01708 758 614 or click here.

This is what some of our volunteers have to say about their work at the hospice.

John Freeman, 67, has been a volunteer gardener for the past seven years.

John Freeman - gardener (2)
"As I retired and live locally I thought it was the right thing to do to help out," said John, who lives in Stapleford Abbots. 

"I like meeting people at the hospice and working with the maintenance team as well as the other volunteers. We have a good laugh when we get together. I really enjoy the work and Claire (Head Gardener at the hospice) gives me all sorts of jobs. I particularly like mowing the lawn because I find it very soothing and satisfying as you can forget about everything else. Being a volunteer is also very rewarding. People will often walk past as we are working and say how lovely the gardens are."

John Freeman - gardener (2)
Chris Morcock, 63, has been volunteering at the hospice's shop in High Road, Ilford for the past three years. 

Chris, from Dagenham, was inspired to get involved after the charity cared for his dad John Morcock before he died of cancer in August 2004.

"I love my volunteer work as I have made so many friends," said Chris, who also helps out at the hospice's shops in Harold Hill, Dagenham and Romford.

"I do a bit of everything at the shop and even do the till training. I get on well with lots of the customers and I am on first name terms with some of them. I came here because my dad was so well looked after by the charity and I thought it was a good way to repay the care and attention he was given."

In 2014 Chris raised almost £200 when he took part in a head shave and ice bucket challenge. And more recently, he supported the Dying Matters Awareness Week events that took place in Ilford town centre last month. 

Anne Lancaster, 62, has been volunteering with the fundraising team since 2014.

Anne, (pictured) who used to work as a purchasing officer for a shipping firm, also has a personal connection as the charity cared for her mum Yvonne Lancaster before she died in 2013. 

"We had to talk my mum into visiting the Day Therapy Unit but after the first visit she realised how wonderful it was and looked forward to going there every week," said Anne, who lives in Brentwood.

John Freeman - gardener (2)
"When the time came my mum was admitted to the Inpatient Unit and she was there for around seven weeks. The care she received was excellent and I was so grateful that she was not at a hospital. The hospice also looked after our family too."

Anne initially helped out at the Sunflower Picnic, which is a summer event held for supporters to remember their loved ones, and since then she has been supporting the fundraising team in any way she can. 

"It has been fantastic," said Anne.

"As soon as I came in I felt part of the team as everyone was so friendly. It is nice to be able to give a little bit back after what the hospice did for my mum."

Details for Sunflower day 2016 can be found at sfh.org.uk/sunflower-day.

Every Wednesday Mike Addis, 70, who has been a volunteer chaplain for three years and is part of the Pastoral Care Team, spends most of his day in the Day Therapy Unit bringing comfort to patients and visitors.

"Many people can get quite afraid when they hear the word hospice," said Mike, from Upminster.

"They may think that once they become a patient they will soon die, although I know this is not necessarily the case. My work involves coming alongside people in a listening capacity, which includes spiritual and religious support. I also liaise with the professional staff to ensure that everyone can receive the best possible help."

Mike, who completed three years of lay ministry training in 2009, organises a lunch-time service in the chapel and for the past two years he has led the Christmas Eve carol service at the hospice as well as taken part in the Services of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for people who have lost their loved ones that are held at local venues.

And during his time at the hospice he has seen the benefit its first class care and support service brings to patients and their families.

"I have seen people whose illnesses have progressed over many months but once under the hospice they are monitored to ensure continued treatment, which may include periods as an inpatient, where I am also able to give them support," said Mike.

"For me the hospice movement is the way forward as we endeavour to help the increasing number of people with life-limiting illnesses. We are very fortunate to be served by such a wonderful facility as Saint Francis Hospice where patients are accepted at no charge to them or their families."

Lynn Stanley, Sue Collins, Nicola Winsley and Ingrid Bean, (pictured below) all work at the general shop in North Street, Romford and say volunteering has enriched their lives.

John Freeman - gardener (2)

Lynn, 72, has been a volunteer with Saint Francis Hospice for the past 19 years and for the past four years she has been working at the shop. 

"I love the people I work with and the customers and the fact that we are so incredibly busy," said Lynn from Romford.

"Volunteers who come from a retail background cannot believe how busy we are.I find it fun and very satisfying as I know I am doing something for the community. Saint Francis Hospice is a local charity and I know where the money is going to. I definitely get more out of it than I put in. I also volunteer from time to time on the Inpatient Unit at the hospice making tea for patients and it is so lovely how little things can bring a smile to their faces."

Sue, 67, has been travelling from her Chigwell home to the shop for the past three and a half years.

"I was in full-time care for over 20 years and then I nursed my husband and a friend," said Sue.

"After I lost my husband I wanted to give my time to something worthwhile. Working at the shop has helped me because it is so stimulating and I feel I am achieving something that is earning money for the hospice. At this charity shop there is lots of action and I am always interested in what our sales targets are."

Nicola, 38, initially started working at the shop as part of a back to work scheme but she enjoyed it so much she has now returned as a volunteer.

"Everyone was so friendly and I really loved the atmosphere of the place," said Nicola, from Dagenham.

"I had never been in a shop before and coming to the Saint Francis Hospice charity shop has given me the experience and confidence that I never had. I volunteer two days a week and if they are short staffed I help out on other days too."

For Ingrid, 71, volunteering has helped her cope with personal tragedy and to use her skills to help others. 

"I came here because I lost my son three years ago and I felt there was a massive hole in my life," said Ingrid, from Hornchurch.

"My aunt used to support Saint Francis Hospice and I knew if I was going to work for a charity it was going to be this one. It has helped me so much and it has really kept me going. I love working on the tills. I used to have my own shops and I've always worked with the public. I am amazed by all the work the hospice does. To have someone around you at a terrible time is so wonderful. Having been there, I know what people are going through."

Gwen Bruce, 60, and Nicola Ramm, 45, have been working at Saint Francis Hospice's electrical shop in South Street, Romford, for the past four months. 

John Freeman - gardener (2)
Gwen and Nicola, both from Dagenham, came to the charity as part of a job scheme to help them get back to work but it has been such a positive experience that they plan to stay on as volunteers after completing their six month placement.  

Nicola, said, "I love it here and enjoy helping customers. Working at the shop has helped me to gain confidence and to build up my skills, which will hopefully lead to a job in retail. I've had great support at the shop and made some great friends and after I finish I hope to stay on a few hours a week." 

"Everyone I work with is lovely," said Gwen. "I work on the tills and on the shop floor. I enjoy meeting different people and have learned things I have never given a thought to before."