BLOG: Volunteers at the heart of local hospice care

Volunteers at a shop opening

People Experience Manager Claire Boosey, whose role is to help ensure everyone in St Luke’s workforce feels recognised and valued, pays tribute to the volunteers whose support is so crucial to the service our hospice provides.

“The dictionary defines a volunteer as someone who freely gives their time to take part in a task, but I know from experience that what St Luke’s volunteers contribute is about so much more than the hours they put in.

“We really appreciate all the community-spirited people who join us in a voluntary capacity. They come from a such a variety of career backgrounds: catering, carpentry, retail, finance and social care, to name just few. Their experience and skills are a great asset to our charity, and for each person we always try to find the role that’s the best fit for them, from being part of our bereavement support service for families to helping with the maintenance of our buildings.

“With growing demands on our charity’s resources, we simply couldn’t do all that we do, as well as we do it, without our volunteers. Age-wise they range from 15 to 93, but what unites them is their compassion for the people who are the very reason St Luke’s exists, our patients and their families. Our volunteers have in common a strong desire to make a difference to them in whatever way they can as part of our valued team.

“Volunteers have always been the lifeblood of St Luke’s. It was thanks to a small band of fervent, unpaid campaigners that support for hospice care in Plymouth was first ignited 40 years ago. Enough money was raised to buy Syrena House in Plymstock and have it converted so that St Luke’s could welcome its first patients, in 1982. Ever since then, we’ve steadily recruited more volunteers as our service has expanded across the community.

“For many, assisting us is their way of saying thank-you for the superb care their loved one received, while others simply want to broaden their horizons or gain valuable experience.

“A huge thank-you to all our volunteers, past and present. In taking St Luke’s to your hearts, you’ve made more of a difference than you may ever know. Our message to anyone considering volunteering with us is, please get in touch! You can contact our People Services team on 01752 964355 or at volunteer@stlukes-hospice.org.uk. Whether you’d like to give a couple of mornings a week or just a few hours, you’ll be part of a friendly team working together to help more local families who desperately need St Luke’s.”

With 36 years’ service, Jeannie Norris, who lives in Eggbuckland, is one of the hospice’s longest-serving volunteers. The big-hearted great-grandmother is part of the team at the Drake City Centre charity shop.

Jeannie said, “My late partner Jim was looked after by St Luke’s at Turnchapel, so I know what a haven it is.

“Serving customers in the shop is about so much more than the just the transactions – you’re there to represent all St Luke’s stands for today, as it always has: respect, kindness and compassion. I get so much out of it and it’s very sociable. I’d definitely recommend it.”

Volunteer Adrian Frost began giving his time as a van driver for St Luke’s before training as a befriender and bereavement visitor.

Adrian said, “Some people find just one visit is all they require, while others I see several times. My role is about helping them take their first steps after their bereavement, until they can move forward more confidently. So, I could be helping them with practicalities, or simply listening. I can’t imagine my life without this role now, and I consider it a privilege to be allowed into their lives.”

John Horwell’s beloved wife Margaret was looked after at Turnchapel before sadly, she died in 2016. Having joined St Luke’s as a volunteer seven months ago, John gives a few hours a week to help maintain the grounds around the specialist unit.

John, who lives in Down Thomas, said: “Everyone at hospice is so friendly, and it means a lot to me that I am trusted to get on with whatever needs doing in the gardens and along the driveway. When I see families arriving, my heart goes out to them because I relate to what they are going through, but I know that with St Luke’s they are in the very best of hands. It comforts me to know I am giving something back to the charity for looking after Margaret so well.”