Following official safety advice relating to mass participation events during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the city’s best-loved charities has announced the cancellation of two of its flagship fundraising events for this year.

Check your inbox… participants already signed up to Men’s Day Out or Midnight Walk have already been contacted by us via email to explain the cancellation process.

St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth is not letting lockdown restrictions dampen the community spirit of its many ardent supporters though. Quite the reverse! Having made the difficult decision to cancel the popular Men’s Day Out, sponsored by IU Energy, and ladies’ Midnight Walk events, after previously hoping to just postpone – and recognising the disappointment this will bring to the thousands who had signed up to take part – it is inviting local men and women to create their own fundraising challenge instead.

Sponsorship money raised by those who sign up for the charity’s Make your own Midnight Walk event this summer, in collaboration with Nash & Co Solicitors (24 July – 31 August), will help ensure the much-loved charity can continue to provide bespoke end of life care for terminally ill patients at home, in hospital and at its specialist unit at Turnchapel, and support them and their loved ones during these turbulent times.

Whether participants choose to walk, jog or run, and whether they take on the challenge solo, with members of their household – children are welcome – or friends (including the four-legged variety!), their personalised event will be an opportunity to have fun – safely – in the great outdoors. For the many who look forward to taking part in Men’s Day Out and Midnight Walk as a tribute to their lost loves ones, it is also a chance to keep the memory of that special person alive and celebrate their life.

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said: “Over the years, Men’s Day Out and our ladies’ Midnight Walk have become legendary in our city with thousands taking part. They’ve done us proud, highlighting the need for local hospice care and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds to ensure our vital service continues.

“Cancelling both events for this year is disappointing for our supporters and us, but it’s the right thing to do to protect our community during the pandemic. It does mean though, that alternative ways of fundraising are key to our charity surviving in these uncertain times.

“That’s why we’re calling on existing supporters and new to sign up to Make your own Midnight Walk. Not only is registering easy and completely free of charge, there’s the flexibility to do everything from a gentle walk or jog to a full-on marathon distance. Stay close to your own doorstep or head to a favourite destination, as long as it is safe to do so.

“What counts is taking part because it’s the sponsorship raised by sharing your JustGiving page with family, friends and neighbours that will help keep St Luke’s doing what we do best, being the professional comfort blanket our patients and their families need now more than ever.

“This is a great opportunity for people of all ages to have fun while doing good in their community, before we can all come together again for our mass participation events in safer times.”

To sign up and to get more information to Make your own Midnight Walk, visit www.stlukesmidnightwalk.co.uk

Check your inbox… participants already signed up to Men’s Day Out or Midnight Walk have already been contacted by us via email to explain the cancellation process.

St Luke’s is continuing to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely. The charity will contact each person who registers an event to ensure they are aware of the latest official advice relating to social distancing before their event takes place.

In May, at the height of the pandemic, Dr Doug Hooper, Consultant in Palliative Medicine in the St Luke’s team at Derriford, shared how it felt to be ‘in the eye of the storm’ at the hospital, with this specialist team extending their work to support the hospital in caring for COVID-19 patients. Nearly two months on, with such admissions steadily decreasing, two of his colleagues – nurse Linzie Collins and Dr Roger Smith – explain how the experience has been for them, and how the team is adapting as it moves into this new phase.

Linzie, who joined the team in February 2019 after nursing patients at Turnchapel, said: “I think what’s been most remarkable is the way everyone – both in our team and across the wider hospital – has pulled together, supporting each other and quickly adapting to the huge amount of change that’s had to happen quickly due to the gravity of the pandemic.

“It’s been tough at times with new changes daily, sometimes even hourly, but what’s always been at the forefront of our minds is making sure we’ve all been as well equipped as possible to give our very best care to patients who are in their last weeks, days and hours of life.

“Not only did the hospital undergo a complete transformation, with many wards moved or designated as COVID-specific – and Oncology being temporarily relocated to the nearby Nuffield hospital to free up capacity – there was also the redeployment of many staff, including nurses from other specialities who were assigned to our team to help us cope with the anticipated surge in patients needing end of life care. Now that we’re seeing less people with the virus, they’ve been able to return to their usual roles.

“My work has included covering the COVID wards as well as looking after non-COVID patients, which has given me some low-level anxiety because I’m always aware of the risks involved, but it’s been so helpful that this responsibility is shared with my colleagues.

“What’s struck me is how positive and supportive everyone has been, despite the undeniable fatigue that set in coping with the crisis. We’ve all pulled together, and I especially want to thank St Luke’s Clinical Admin, who’ve continued to be a lifeline for us, handling calls and making sure things run smoothly, despite having to do all their work off-site at home.”

Linzie’s colleague Dr Roger Smith is working with St Luke’s as part of his training in palliative care.

He said: “Fortunately, Plymouth has not seen the very high number of COVID-19 cases some other cities have had, but we’ve seen a steady stream of people admitted to the hospital because of the virus, and this has been over a prolonged period. We’ve done really well as a team to manage it, thanks to excellent teamwork and the strong leadership we have, but I won’t deny it’s been challenging at times.

“Not only have we been working with the uncertainty the crisis has brought, it was difficult using the necessary PPE with FFP (filtering face-piece), which looks a bit like a gas mask and can feel hot and uncomfortable.

“Of course, there is the emotional side, too. We’ve been supporting relatives whose loved one is dying without them by their side. However, we’ve been grateful for technology such as phones and iPad screens that’s meant that at least some could maintain some sense of connection. Nonetheless, it’s been heart-breaking to see.

Looking ahead, Roger is uncertain as to what future weeks might bring, given the number of tourists and second-home owners expected in the region soon with lockdown restrictions easing.

He said: “While it is good to see a steady decline in cases, I think our popularity as a holiday destination could make us more vulnerable than some other areas, so we need to remain vigilant. We also need to be well prepared in case of a second wave of cases in the winter months, when traditionally NHS resources are already more stretched.”

Both Roger and Linzie are also concerned that currently at Nuffield they are already seeing an increased number of cancer patients who need palliative care.

Linzie said: “It seems some people are presenting later than they normally would, perhaps because they haven’t been able to access the treatment they need due to the pandemic or because of wanting to avoid what they regard as them placing ‘additional pressure’ on the NHS. We want to reiterate the NHS’s message that it’s vitally important you don’t put off seeking medical help if you’re concerned about your health, and that you don’t miss your appointments.

“The past few months have been emotionally and physically tough, but we will manage whatever lies ahead by making sure we look after ourselves and each other, including taking some much-needed annual leave to bolster our resilience.

“We’ll continue to be here for those who need us, and do whatever we can to make such a difficult time that little bit easier for them and their loved ones.”

His gentle humour, a shared visit to Stonehenge and The Beatles’ music are just three of the things that Suzy Bennett thinks about, remembering her much-loved dad Jim Tozer, who sadly died last October, aged 68.

With today being the Plymouth comedian’s first Father’s Day without this special man, who received our care at home before he passed away, she will be spending it with her mum Jeanette, having a ‘duvet day’ as they reminisce, looking through photos from family holidays with Jim and watching films he used to enjoy with them.

While being on lockdown because of the pandemic means they can’t be joined at home by Suzy’s brother Simon and his children Amy, Thomas, Robert and James, all of whom dearly loved spending time with their grandad, they’ll have a ‘drive-by’ visit from them or link up via video-call instead.

Perhaps, too, there’ll be a visit from ‘Pauly’, the friendly blackbird who often appeared in the garden of the family home when Jim was in in his last months of life and who continues to be a regular there.

Suzy said: “It was typical of Dad’s humour that he named him Pauly after Paul McCartney because he was a huge Beatles fan and was thinking of their song ‘Blackbird’. That still makes me smile.

“Music was so much part of Dad’s life. He used to spend hours upstairs writing, recording or just listening to his favourite artists. That’s why we’ve left his room with his guitar and PlayStation just as it was. And the house is full of items emblazoned with the words ‘All You Need is Love’ – the classic Beatles’ song that was special to him.”

Thinking of Father’s Days past, Suzy remembers happy times when the family visited Plymouth Hoe and tucked into fish and chips or ice-cream.

She said: “It was all quite low-key because Dad didn’t like a fuss, and that was very much in keeping with the modest man he was. I miss him so much, and even now catch myself thinking that he’ll still pop his head around the door at any moment.

“Mum and I still talk about Dad all the time, and Father’s Day will be no different. The lyrics to ’All You Need is Love’ seem all the more poignant now. It’s hard being without him and sometimes I struggle but my love for him continues and the memories I have of him go forward with me.”

Learn more how St Luke’s can support you through bereavement.

“It’s almost an over-used phrase these days, but I want my children to know it really is okay not to be okay. If they feel happy and want to have fun, that’s great, but if they feel sad or anxious they don’t have to pretend otherwise.”

While she knows this Father’s Day will be poignant for her and her two children because sadly, her beloved husband Matt is no longer here to share the family occasion, Sarah Geoffrey will be making sure – as she always does – that Eloise, 12, and Dylan, 5, know it’s fine for them to express whatever emotions they are feeling inside.

Our community team cared for Matt at home before he died of cancer in 2018, and the family was supported throughout that time – as well as beyond – by our dedicated Family and Children’s Support Worker, Lisa.

Sarah said: “Being as sensitive we could, Matt and I always tried to be as open as possible with our children about his illness, but after he died it took me a while to realise that there’s no point pretending with them when I’m not feeling okay.

“With the help of St Luke’s and good friends, I’ve learned there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. There are no rules, and when I’m having a tough day, being honest with Eloise and Dylan – in age-appropriate way – is important because it teaches them that they can be real, too.

“Them missing their daddy and feeling angry and sad that he’s not here anymore is completely natural, so at the times they’re feeling that way, it’s healthy for them to express those emotions rather than suppressing them.”

Sarah’s approach then, is to play Father’s Day by ear, respecting that being different ages and personalities Eloise and Dylan often like to go about things differently.

She said: “Eloise tends to keep things low-key and doesn’t want others to feel they need to make a fuss of her because she’s lost her dad. She always lets her friends know it’s okay for them to talk about their own dads though, and her thoughtfulness towards them makes feel proud. Dylan still enjoys making a special Father’s Day card, which he now gives to his grandad – my dad – who we’ll spend time with on the day, having fun in the garden.

“While Matt won’t be with us in person, we’ll be thinking of him, his wicked sense of humour and all the happy times we shared. We’ll go through the memory boxes the children made and look at all our photos, taking our time and remembering how very special he was.”

Find out how St Luke’s can support your child through bereavement with Patches.

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

With just a month as Manager of our Modbury charity shop under her belt before lockdown forced the temporary closure of all St Luke’s stores, new recruit Nesha Clemens is finding that redeployment to the reception team at Turnchapel is giving her valuable insight into the bespoke end of life care our retail income supports.

Prior to joining us in February, Nesha, who is 26 and grew up in Plymouth, had already packed plenty into her years, from building up a loyal clientele as a hairdresser and renovating houses to working on the Gold Coast of Australia for a year, as well as travelling across four states in a campervan.

However, it was experience of working in retail for the British Red Cross before she went to Australia that first gave Nesha a taste for the charity sector.

She said: “Before travelling, I combined hairdressing and bar work with a casual position assisting in the Red Cross charity shops in Plymouth. I learned a lot from that hands-on experience and also from talking to my mum, who managed the shops.

“Then, after returning home, I worked for the Red Cross again, eventually securing the job as Manager of the Newquay shop. This was where I really earned my stripes in charity retail, taking it from one of the worst performing Red Cross shops in the country to one of the top three of its most successful stores.

“This was down to lots of hard work by me and a great team of existing and new volunteers. I overhauled the look of the shop to make it more ‘Newquay style’ and built closer links with the community to make the store part of the fabric of local life. As well as choosing the right stock and selling it for a good price, I ran raffles to gain further engagement and attract more income.

“I found it really rewarding seeing the shop go from strength to strength, but it became more and more difficult to achieve a healthy work-life balance given the long daily commute between Plymouth and Newquay, plus the fact that my remit also included overseeing four other Red Cross shops in Cornwall.

“It was while looking for the right opportunity closer to home that I heard about the job managing the St Luke’s charity shop in Modbury, and I was delighted to be appointed. Of course, there wasn’t much time to settle in before lockdown was announced, but I was already enjoying it and contributing ideas about the renovation work that will help make better use of the relatively small space there, such as clever storage. I also feel it suits me better to be part of local charity rather than national one, which can sometimes feel rather corporate.

“In many ways, I’m itching to be back in the shop, working with the volunteers and meeting customers, but being redeployed to Turnchapel until more ‘normal’ life resumes is time really well spent. Chatting with the nurses and other staff, it’s easy to see why St Luke’s is so well loved and respected by the community.

“Everything is done with a smile and so much kindness, and nothing is too much trouble to help the patients feel at ease. Contrary to what people who’ve never been to Turnchapel might think, it’s a happy place – though, of course, the circumstances of patients and their families are sad, and even more difficult at the moment, given the pandemic.

“Answering the phones and meeting relatives whose loved one is close to death has

really opened my eyes to how vital hospice care is and the difference it makes. I feel privileged to have this opportunity, and everything I’m learning about St Luke’s care is giving me even more motivation to do my utmost to ensure the Modbury shop thrives. I know every penny it raises is needed more than ever before.”

Donations – UPDATE

So overwhelming is the kindness of St Luke’s supporters who’ve been donating tonnes of items to our re-opened charity shop at Western Approach, we’ve had to temporarily press pause on our acceptance of more donations!
Don’t worry, we’re working hard to remedy this but, for now, we’d really appreciate your patience in holding on to your unwanted furniture, clothes and bric-a-brac while we safely sort through the tonnes we’ve already received.
Though it’s only a fortnight since our doors re-opened, thousands of pre-loved goods have already filled our huge 8,000sq ft storage space to capacity, so please bear with us while we process them all in accordance with the government safety guidelines, which include us quarantining each item for 72 hours.
We’ll let you know as soon as we can safely re-open our ‘drive in and donate’ self-service facility at the rear of the store. In the meantime, please keep shopping with us. Thanks to our generous supporters, there are more bargains than ever to be snapped up!

Our city-centre pop-up shop at the former Toys R Us site at Western Approach, Plymouth is still open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm for shopping only, with our City Centre Drake shop being next in early July. Our free furniture collection service and donation point at the distribution centre in Plympton is also temporarily unavailable.

Shop with us

We have good news for the many kind-hearted supporters who, in ‘normal times’, demonstrate their love for St Luke’s by donating to – and shopping at – our charity shops across Plymouth and surrounding areas. After the weeks you’ve spent patiently waiting for our stores to re-open safely, we’re delighted to let you know that this carefully planned, phased process is about to begin… gradually!

Following detailed preparations to ensure we adhere to official health and safety guidance relating to retail outlets, we will start by re-opening our city-centre pop-up shop at the former Toys R Us site at Western Approach, Plymouth on Tuesday 23 June (open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm), with our City Centre Drake shop being next in early July. Our free furniture collection service and donation point at the distribution centre in Plympton is temporarily unavailable.

We recognise that our supporters living some distance from these locations, including more in rural areas, may feel frustrated that their local St Luke’s charity shop isn’t re-opening just yet, but please be assured that we are working hard behind the scenes to ensure the process we follow keeps everyone safe, so please continue to be patient and we will update you as soon as we can.

While much within our pop-up store at the Toys R Us site will be familiar, including good-quality pre-loved furniture and brand new mattresses for sale at bargain prices, the shop will also have the new introduction of clothing along with crockery, books and CD’s.

Naturally, this large, centrally located shop will include all the safety measures you would expect during this pandemic, many of which you will be familiar with if you have been shopping at supermarkets in recent weeks: hand-sanitising facilities, aisle markings to ensure social distancing, limited numbers of people admitted at any one time, and contactless payments preferred, for example. In addition, for the time being we are requesting that you do not try on clothes or handle items you do not wish to buy.

For your peace of mind, be assured to guard against possible spreading of infection, all donated goods will be stored on site for 72 hours before we put them on sale.