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Volunteer still learning new skills after 23 years

Every year more than 850 volunteers give up their time to ensure Saint Francis Hospice provides the best care and support to everyone who needs it. 
As part of Volunteers Week, (1-7 June) the hospice is highlighting the incredible contribution made by its dedicated volunteers who work a total of 135,225 hours a year and save the charity almost £2 million every year.     

There are many reasons why volunteers decide to get involved but what they all share is a great sense of satisfaction at being part of an organisation which makes a difference to peoples' lives.     

"The UK Volunteer Week gives us a special opportunity to say a HUGE 'Thank You' to the 853 volunteers working in our hospice departments, shops and within the community," said Gill Wendelken, voluntary service's manager at the hospice.    

"This wonderful and essential volunteer team, which is appreciated all year round, adds so much to the work of our organisation through their unselfish giving of time, experience and skills. "      

Here is the story of just one of those volunteers:     

Doreen Honeywell    

A retired shop owner is still learning new skills after 23 years at the hospice. Doreen Honeywell, 79, was so impressed with the care her husband Robert Honeywell received at the hospice before he died of stomach cancer in 1991, she wanted to get involved. 

The grandmother said before Robert, 62, was referred to the hospice she knew very little about the care it provided.     

"When we knew it was terminal and the hospital referred him to Saint Francis Hospice I was really worried," said Doreen.     

"But as soon as he was taken in I knew straight away that it was the right place for him to be."     

Doreen, who used to run a shoe repair business with Robert, has been working part time on reception since 1992 and says her experience with the hospice means she can understand what patients and their families are going through.    

"When I am working on reception and people come in and they are nervous I completely understand how they feel because I felt the same at the time," said Doreen, from Barking.

"I think some people have the wrong idea about hospices. It is not until you have need of them that you realise how wonderful they are."     

And while Doreen enjoys helping patients and their families she has also benefited from her volunteer work.    

"It has been so good for me and it gives my week a focus," she added. "I have learned quite a lot since I have been working on reception.       

"The hospice has grown over the years and so the work we do on reception is a lot busier and as technology has come in I have learned about computers and the switchboard."  

The Hospice will be hosting a series of Thank You evenings in June and July to recognise and celebrate all the hard work done by volunteers, many of whom will also be presented with long service awards.    

There are a wide range of volunteer opportunities and the hospice is particularly in need of complementary therapists, drivers to transport patients and carers, shop assistants, helpers for the garden and at fundraising events.     

To get involved or to find out more contact the Voluntary Services Department on 01708 758614.