Theft inspires "vantastic" gift

In January a Saint Francis Hospice Retail van was stolen from a driveway in the Avon Road area of Cranham. It was eventually found several months later and is now back on hospice business. During its absence, when there was no certainty that it would be coming back, co-opted member to the hospice board and loyal supporter Brian Bracken from Brentwood decided to donate enough money to allow the hospice to buy a replacement vehicle.
Pic B Van side view rs (cropped)
"Somebody came along and stole our van - which is a really bad thing to do - at the time the hospice needed it desperately because it was a busy time of the year and I thought that in memory of my wife, I could donate the money for the hospice to get a replacement van," said Brian.

Brian's wife Ruth had cancer and was at Queen's Hospital when she was referred for care at Saint Francis Hospice. Ruth was then a patient at the hospice in Havering-atte-Bower for the last few weeks of her life and Brian was able to spend most of his time with her, including staying overnight with his wife in the Abridge suite that is designed to allow families to stay together during the final days of life. Ruth died on 26th December 2013.

"The care given to my Ruth was just fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble and she was just made to feel special all the way through her stay at the hospice," said Brian (pictured with the van dedicated to his wife Ruth).

Pic B Brian with the van he funded rs
The volunteers who drive the vans operated by the hospice's retail arm give names to their vehicles and the new van that Brian's money was used to purchase has been named "The Lady Ruth" in honour of Brian's wife. The van carries inscriptions dedicating the vehicle to Ruth Bracken on its doors.

The new van is a Ford Transit Luton double wheelbase model with an extended body and tail lift and is usually driven by Scott Steggles from Chigwell. By the time of its formal presentation to the hospice Scott said that the van had already been used to carry a huge American style fridge freezer and a number of sofas.

"It is being used for the collection of furniture, house clearances and to deliver stock to our shops" said Michelle Nicholls, General Manager, Retail. "We are extremely grateful for Brian's amazing gift and it's lovely to see that a horrible event like the theft of one of our vans can have a happy ending."

The van is one of a number of vehicles used by the hospice to service its 15 shops located across the hospice's catchment area. In the last financial year the shops contributed over £700,000 in profit to help pay for the doctors and nurses employed by the hospice.

Pic B Brian with the van he funded rs
Brian hands the keys to the new van to Saint Francis Hospice CEO Pam Court

Pic B Brian with the van he funded rs
The new van is formally handed over to the hospice. From L to R: Driver's mate Trevor Upton from Elm Park, Pam Court, Brian Bracken, Michelle Nicholls, Hospice In Memoriam Executive Karen Freeman and Scott Steggles.