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Volunteers give up an incredible 260,000 hours a year

Big-hearted volunteers give the gift of time and skill, contributing £2 million every year to the specialist care service the hospice provides to the community. 
Group photos of volunteers

As part of National Volunteers' Week, we would like to say a massive 'Thank you' to our 840 volunteers who give up a total of 260,000 hours a year because they want to make a difference to patients and families affected by life-limiting illnesses.   

And people may also be surprised by the range of roles volunteers carry out in every area of the organisation.    

Laura Perry

These include: retail, administration roles, reception, gardening, maintenance, complementary therapy, bereavement services, photography, the inpatient unit, our day services at Pemberton Place and on our confidential telephone service OrangeLine.

Gill Wendelken, Voluntary Services Manager at the hospice, said: "Saint Francis Hospice continues to be proud of its increasing number of wonderful volunteers, who are helping at the Hospice, in Retail and Fundraising.          

"So many wonderful local people giving their time, their skills and experiences, to help our patients, families and carers in a variety of ways.           

"Our volunteers play such a vitally important role in everything the hospice does for the community.          

"And to add to this good news  - there is always room for more to join us."        

We will be formally thanking our volunteers throughout June when we host our three annual Thank You evenings to bring volunteers together to enjoy a meal and drinks. 

Long Service Awards for people achieving milestones from five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years will also be presented.         

Volunteers have a wealth of experience and skills to give and below are the stories of just a few of our heroes who reveal how helping people in need has enriched their lives.        

Jo Eastman, Sonographer      

Jo, 47, has 20 years' experience as a sonographer, and it was while her father was under the care of the hospice that she noticed the charity didn't have any ultra sound facilities.


This meant patients who needed a scan to assess their symptoms and condition had to be transferred to hospital.    

Jo never forgot the care hLaura Perryer father and family were given in 2012 and a few years later she contacted Corinna Midgley, the Medical Director, to discuss volunteering her services and setting up an ultrasound service.    

And what's more, she even managed to source an ultrasound machine!    

Since then hundreds of patients have benefited from her skills which have enabled them to receive the specialist care they need while in the comfort of the hospice.      

"Volunteering at the hospice is the best part of my week as I am able to spend time with the patients and their loved ones," said Jo, who also works at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Spire Healthcare.       

Margaret Slocombe, Specialist Community and Crisis Support Service (SCCS)      

Margaret, 75, has had three different roles at the hospice over the past 15 years.  

Margaret initially started volunteering on reception in 2003, answering the telephone and greeting visitors, before moving on to support the education team when it was based in a small bungalow on site.     

Laura Perry

Margaret was later given the opportunity to use her office skills to support the Specialist Community and Crisis Support service and every Wednesday for more than a decade she has been a valuable part of the team, carrying out a range of administration duties.     

"I wanted to do volunteer work and the hospice appealed to me as I wanted to do something to help people," said Margaret.     

"I used to work as a secretary and it's great that I can use my skills.     

"I love it here as the team are absolutely brilliant and make me feel very welcome."

John Brockenhurst, Retail      

John, 59, worked in a variety of retail stores over the years - including Harrods, and he has now been volunteering at our retail store in High Street, Barkingside for the past five years.     Laura Perry

After suffering ill health, John was no longer able to return to his work but after discovering volunteering, he has been able to use his skills and do what he loves most!    

"I just love it," said John.     "I really enjoy talking with customers and hearing their stories - they are such a joy.

"Sometimes people have lost their husbands and needed a shoulder to cry on.    

"I'm here every Monday but help out on other days if they are really busy." 

The Henwood Family        

It's a family affair for the Henwoods. Husband and wife Sue and Peter Henwood, both 67, have been volunteering at the hospice for more than five years.     

Sue, who is affectionately known as the eBay Queen, is part of the our retail team based at its head office in Ashton Gate, Harold Hill.    

Her day is spent listing donations on the internet auction site and trying to get the highest price.     Laura Perry

"I love eBaying and when I applied to become a volunteer, I listed eBaying as one of my hobbies" said Sue.      

"I was delighted when I was told they needed volunteers to support the retail team's eBay department.     

"I love the atmosphere and the people I work with and knowing that what I am doing is helping raise money for such a great cause."     

And while Sue is clicking away, Peter gives up his time to take photos at a range of fundraising and hospice events.      

"I really enjoy my role as it is so varied," said Peter.    

"It's great to meet people from all walks of life, from every day people to well-known people such as Sir Trevor Brooking and Kate Adie."    

And that's not all! Their daughter-in-law Tracey Henwood, who is married to their son Danny, started out as a volunteer with the retail team back in 2013.    

An opportunity arose and Tracey, 46, has been working as a Retail Trading Manager ever since!    

"The best part about my job is seeing donations sell for such incredible sums of money - it is such a great buzz," said Tracey.          

 Carol Yusef, Education  

Carol, 57, experienced the specialist care and support that hospices provide when her husband, Howard, died 20 years ago in Bury St Edmunds.

For four years she had volunteered at St Nicholas Hospice, and some time later, after she had remarried and moved to Upminster, she wanted to again get involved by volunteering

at the hospice .           

Carol spent the first four years serving drinks and lunch to patients in what was then known as Day Care.  

Laura Perry

In the afternoon she visited the award winning gardens at the Hospice, or took part in activities such as card marking, scarf designing and book exchanging.          

 And every Tuesday for the last 11 years she has been volunteering in the charity's onsite library, which is based in the Pepperell Education Centre.         

"One of my main duties is helping our nursing students find the books they need, so everything has to be systematically organised, not only on the shelves but also on the computer.", said Carol.         

"Volunteering gives me a feel-good factor and when I go home I feel I have really given something back and it helps keep my feet firmly on the ground.    

"You could arrive worried or annoyed about some trivial thing, but after a day at the hospice you'll put it all back into perspective."      

Julie Dods, Family Support Services Team    

Julie, 53, started volunteering with the complementary therapy team eight years ago and for three years she helped patients relax and eased their discomfort by carrying out reflexology, reiki and massage therapies.   Laura Perry

And in 2014 Julie, who has always had an interest in counselling, was delighted to be given the opportunity to train as a bereavement support volunteer with the Family Support Services team.    

"I started off doing home visits and it was so rewarding as I was really able to support bereaved people who were either unable to come to the hospice or unwilling to come because it was too painful to be in the place where their loved one died," said Julie

"For the past year I have been supporting clients who are able to come to the hospice and it has widened my experience as I see people of all ages."    

The mum-of-one, whose mum was cared for by the hospice, has been so inspired by her volunteering role that she has gone back to college to complete Level 3 in counselling studies.     

"I get so much out of it," said Julie    "You learn about yourself while you are learning about other people.     

"It is a privilege to be alongside people on their bereavement journey.    

"You see people who come in and their life has changed beyond belief and gradually you see them adjusting and accepting their new life without their loved one."               

Sheila Bunker, Reception, OrangeLine and SCCS 

Sheila, 74, gives up 16 hours of her week to volunteer in three different areas of the hospice.   

Every Friday evening Sheila volunteers on reception, answering the phone and greeting visitors and two days a week she carries out admin duties with the Specialist Community and Crisis Support team.     Laura Perry

A fourth day is spent with the OrangeLine confidential telephone service supporting people who are isolated, lonely and in need of a friendly ear or signposting to services.     

"I have always worked and I find volunteering gives a structure to my week," said Sheila, who had a close friend who was treated at the hospice.     

"I feel very rewarded and I know I have done something worthwhile.     

"I also have a great laugh at the hospice and I have made lots of friends since I have been here."     

Barry Dryland and Laura Perry, Retail      

Barry Dryland, 62, initially joined the team at our retail store in Green Lane, Dagenham as part of a work programme back in 2016 but he loved it so much he continued as a volunteer three and a half days a week!    

"I really like meeting people and It makes me feel good to know I am helping to raise money for the hospice so people can get the care they need," said Barry, who works as a domestic at Queen's Hospital every weekend.    

Laura Perry

"Everyone works as a team and gets on so well and even though I live in Rainham and it takes me two buses to get here, I wouldn't want to work in another store!    

Laura Perry, 35, was a full-time mum for many years and as her children got older she wanted to return to work and decided to try volunteering to give her confidence and learn new skills.    

"I had time on my hands and I thought volunteering would be a great way to boost my confidence and CV but I fell in love with the hospice store and stayed here," said Laura.Laura Perry

"Volunteering at the store has done so much for me.    "I've always been a wife and a mum and coming to the hospice I feel I have found part of myself and I can be Laura again.    

"Volunteering also gives me the flexibility I need too as I can work term-time and be there if my kids are unwell."                                                       

 If you have been inspired and would like to get involved please click here to find out about the roles available and to download an application.

Or if you would prefer to speak to the Volunteer Services team call 01708 758614 or email volunteering@sfh.org.uk