For most people, changing jobs and joining the staff of a new organisation can be a time of trepidation as well as excitement – but what is it like when your arrival and induction happen to coincide with a global pandemic?  Claire Fisher, who joined us as Head of Finance in early June, shares the background that led to her joining our charity and reflects on her first six weeks in post during such an unprecedented time.

Claire said: “Being born and bred in Plymouth, the name of St Luke’s was very familiar to me and I’ve always known it to be synonymous with dignity, respect and compassion. So, when I heard about the opportunity to join as Head of Finance, it really sparked my interest and I wanted to find out more.

“My whole career has revolved around finance, which is not that surprising given that maths was my favourite subject at school, and it was joining Plymouth City Council at the age of 18 that gave me the chance to train and qualify as an accountant. Then, when Plymouth became a unitary authority, in 1998, I was promoted to the role of Group Accountant, leading a team providing technical accountancy support to the whole authority, on topics such as VAT and treasury management. I also took a lead role in the production and audit of the statutory accounts and submission of government returns.

“The council played a really important part in my life, and not simply because it’s where I spent the first 24 years of my career. It’s was also where I met my husband, but later – after we had our children – my perspective began to change and I found myself seeking a new professional direction where I could hopefully see more of a tangible positive impact for my efforts.  Teaching was a career I’d considered at school and, though I decided again not to take that path, the idea of broadening my horizons and working in a school remained attractive.

“It was the opportunity to join Lipson Co-operative Academy as Assistant Business Manager, in 2013, that saw me take the leap into a very different work environment. I had the autonomy to review and shape all aspects of the school’s financial activities, and I’m proud of the improvements I made during my seven years there.  I also managed other aspects of the school business activities, including main reception, which helped me to get involved in all aspects of school life.”

“I wasn’t actively seeking change of job when the advert for the Head of Finance role at St Luke’s was pointed out to me by a friend.  However, the chance to develop professionally – while also making a valuable contribution to one of the charities I personally support – made it an opportunity not to be missed!  For me, part of the attraction of working for a charity is that rather than the focus being on expenditure, as in my previous roles, the key is to develop and sustain income streams.  Of course, the delivery of quality services to local people is at the heart of what we do here, and that has been an important aspect for me throughout my career.

“What no-one could have foreseen, of course, was the pandemic and the huge impact it would have on everyone’s lives, including at work. I won’t pretend that my induction period has been without its challenges, given the very unusual circumstances, but the warmth of the welcome I’ve received from everyone has been truly humbling and helped me to quickly feel part of the team. In particular, my Finance team colleagues have gone out of their way to help me settle in.

“I’ve really appreciated the friendliness and support, especially as I joined just a week before the main annual audit, an exceptionally busy time made all the more demanding by the additional workload brought about because of the COVID-19 situation, including the financial modelling that’s been urgently required to help our charity steer its way through these unchartered waters and keep providing such outstanding end of life care.

“This role and the organisation itself both feel a really good fit for me. My great auntie and my husband’s auntie were both cared for at Turnchapel, where I’m based (though currently doing some of my work from home), so I already knew it was an uplifting place, and I feel a real affinity with all that St Luke’s stands for.

“I only have to look as far as the messages that come in with some of the donations to sense the overwhelming love and respect our community has for St Luke’s and the fact there are so many ‘stories’ lying behind the £ signs I see in our accounts. For example, there was one just recently from a regular volunteer, who said she was making a donation in lieu of putting in her usual shifts – she wanted to continue contributing to the cause she holds so dear while she awaits the call to return to her voluntary role when it’s safe to do so.

“That sums it up for me. St Luke’s is the city’s best-loved and most respected charity, and I feel excited and proud to now be playing my part in helping to ensure a sustainable future for the vital service it provides.”

Written by Dr Jeff Stephenson, Consultant at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth

I didn’t pay much attention to the news stories about Wuhan, and the Facebook posts from fellow Christians there asking for prayer. I probably said a few ‘arrow prayers’ but didn’t really engage. It was all far away, and it wouldn’t ever impact us. I’m challenged once again to widen my circle of concern and engagement.

COVID-19 is now here. Changes we have been talking about around our ways of working get a kick-start as staff move out of buildings and embrace technology. Skype and PPE intrude on working days. I dislike both of them. The very thing that brought me into hospice is the human contact. Presence and proximity and touch are fundamental to palliative care. It’s not the same caring for the dying from behind the barriers of mask and gloves.

I read of the experience of Italian colleagues who found that palliative care had to be “brutally” adapted. Early on in our own experience it is restrictions on visiting that injure most, both families and staff. Seemingly inhumane and rapidly changing guidance, in the name of safety. And common sense in applying the guidance for a while goes out of the window, a testimony to the prevalent fear. Thankfully, pragmatism and compassion soon prevail for those at the end of life.

I sense the fear all around. I sense it amongst some of our staff. Society’s new mantra is ‘Stay safe’. Precautions are necessary, but what are such messages doing to the collective psyche in a culture that already idolises safety? I reflect on the early Christians who stayed behind in Carthage and other cities across the Roman Empire to care for plague victims, and the fruit of their service and sacrifice.

Stories from London start to mirror those from Italy, and we begin to take seriously the possible impact on our region. There is talk of a local Nightingale unit. This is a defining hour. Inwardly I sense that it isn’t going to be as bad as they are predicting here. We are not London. I tell colleagues that, based on prophetic conviction rather than science. But I prepare for the worst and trust for the best. And we need to support the wider healthcare community in this crisis or else the credibility of hospices may be in doubt.

We adapt our community and hospital support, and we temporarily increase the number of our beds (all with precious piped oxygen) from twelve to eighteen. We offer to help out with the Nightingale. The option of us taking COVID patients comes to the table.

I meditate for several days on worship and sacrifice. I am genuinely not afraid for myself. I dwell in Psalm 91, reciting it aloud every morning when I arrive on the ward, declaring its truths over the hospice, staff and city. But I am burdened by the possibility of losing one of my nursing or medical colleagues. It seems a reasonable sacrifice to lay down one’s life while trying to save others. But almost all our patients are already dying. Laying down one’s life to enable them to have a better experience? If I died as a direct result of my work, wouldn’t that be a terrible waste? A life poured out in service and worship is never a waste. Greater love has no man than this…..

I recommend that we isolate part of the hospice to take patients dying with or from COVID. It is the right thing to do but it will put staff in harm’s way. I tell my team that I will personally attend any COVID patients admitted to the unit, even if it means coming in when I am not meant to be at work. Their response is humbling and inspiring. They won’t hear of it. In fact, they will preferentially protect me, as my age puts me at higher risk.

The kindness of strangers is all around us in this crisis. It makes me believe that great blessing will come out of it. That and of course the certain knowledge that God works all things for good to those who love him (Romans 8:28).

As the weeks go by it feels like a bit of a ‘phoney war’. There have been cases in the city, and some deaths and the heart-breaking stories surrounding those. But the expected surge hasn’t happened here.

A month on there has been no need for our eight designated COVID beds, so we open them up again to general palliative care. All our services have been strangely quiet. Where are all the ‘usual’ patients? We have had hundreds of empty hospital beds, everything gearing up for a deluge that thankfully never comes.

Three months on and we still haven’t had a patient in the hospice with confirmed COVID.

Now the talk is about the ‘even bigger’ second wave that is going to hit us over the winter. Here we go again. I refuse to buy into that kind of fear. But the toll on staff is showing. Call it ‘COVID fatigue’ if you like, but fatigue seems too bland a description. There is a pervading weariness, bordering on exhaustion in some.

The ‘usual’ patients are coming back, but are generally more poorly than before, often more advanced. The turnover for all teams is ‘brisk’. The emotional impact of the drip feed exposure to suffering is intensified by the post-adrenaline crash, and defences on the line between self-preservation and the need to embrace it in order to engage meaningfully can seem all the more fragile.

But there is hope. And learning. And blessing. Some incredible blessing – He floods the darkness with brightness, even the darkness of the shadow of death (Job 12:22). We talk about and plan for restoration. I am immensely proud of those I work with. Our services will never be the same again – and that for the better. We have shown ourselves to be agile and flexible and resilient. There have been tensions along the way, but we have a greater cohesiveness across clinical teams. We have collaborated effectively with external services. We stepped up to the plate and responded to the need and we will reap the benefits of that. And we have been given the opportunity and privilege of redefining who we are and what we do going forward.

by Dr Jeff Stephenson, Consultant at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth
*end*

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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.

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.”

Shops currently open
Tuesday to Saturday | 9.30am to 4.30pm

Plymouth City Centre Drake
Plymouth City Centre Pop-up shop (former Toys R Us)
Plympton, Huxley Close (near Chaplins)
Plymstock, Sugar Mill
Launceston
Tavistock

Opening Tuesday 4 August
Saltash

Opening Tuesday 11 August
Plymstock
Estover
Ivybridge
Southway
Torpoint

Opening Tuesday 18 August
Yealmpton
Plympton Ridgeway
Barbican Shabby Chic

Opening Tuesday 25 August
Modbury

All other St Luke’s charity shops remain temporarily closed.

So overwhelming is the kindness of St Luke’s supporters who’ve been donating tonnes of items to our re-opened charity shops, 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.

Our donation point at the distribution centre in Plympton is temporarily unavailable. Our free furniture collection service has opened again for select collections, visit our webpage to see if you are eligible.

 

BLOG | 8 June 2020

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 and City Centre Drake shop in Plymouth are still open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm for shopping only. Our donation point at the distribution centre in Plympton is temporarily unavailable. But our free furniture collection service has opened again for select collections, call us on 01752 964455 to see if you are eligible.

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 has begun… gradually!

Following detailed preparations to ensure we adhere to official health and safety guidance relating to retail outlets, we have re-opened city-centre pop-up shop at the former Toys R Us site and City Centre Drake shop in Plymouth (open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm).

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 shops will be familiar, including good-quality pre-loved furniture, brand new mattresses, clothing along with crockery, books and CD’s.

Naturally, our shops 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.

With the current crisis meaning that sadly, more people are dying – and often more quickly – we’re extending the reach of our bereavement support service to anyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 or is anticipating this heartbreak.

As part of our city’s response to help individuals and families affected by loss due to the pandemic – and working in partnership with University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Plymouth City Council, Livewell Southwest and our networks of Compassionate Friends – our charity has stepped up to co-ordinate support for both pre and post bereavement in Plymouth and surrounding areas.

We know how hard it is when someone close to you dies. We also know that COVID-19 has made loss even more complex for so many people. You might not have been able to visit your loved one in a care home or hospital, or perhaps you’ve had to make extraordinarily tough decisions on who could attend the funeral.

If you need help, there’s no need to wait – you don’t need a referral. Just pick up the phone and call our friendly, experienced and sensitive team on 01752 964200. Whatever you’re feeling, we will listen and support you. You are not alone.

We’re also here for health and social care teams, recognising the toll the pandemic is taking on those working in hospitals and care homes. You’ve been getting on, carrying on and keeping on – we’ll give you the space and support you need to reflect, de-brief, release some emotion and signpost you to the most appropriate support. After all, you’re humans, too.

Talented local Plymouth band SuperXLs have been supporting St Luke’s for the past 3 years, by showcasing their musical tribute to the late, great, David Bowie every January. To date the band has raised almost £2000 from those shows alone. The band is made up of five great local fundraising heroes called Ben, Mark, Leo, Jon and Phin.

On the 3 May, the SuperXLs premiered their isolation video to thank frontline workers fighting covid-19. The song titled ‘Heroes for Heroes’ has raised just under £2000 for St Luke’s, ensuring local families get the care and support that they need at end of life.

Mark Trewin from SuperXLs said, “We had to do something as a tribute to all the frontline heroes working so hard in our community during these challenging times” Mark continued “St Luke’s was the obvious choice to raise money for. One of the band members has a family member being currently cared for by the hospice, so it has a personal connection too and is even more meaningful to gift our time and raise much needed funds.”

The band are urging people to watch their video on YouTube and make a donation of support.

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said “The video is best enjoyed with a drink in hand and the sound up loud, the emotional introduction had me and my family in tears, so much passion shared by the band. The words of the song are very powerful and thought provoking, and the images shared of our incredible nurses. I know the challenges our nurses and doctors are faced in these unprecedented times to care for over 300 families in and around our City, it really is heart touching.

“I would like to thank the band for their support and everyone who has donated to the JustGiving page and throughout the pandemic. We really need your support and we are so very grateful, thank you for caring.”