The kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, there’s no less thought and attention given to the nutritious meals and tasty snacks prepared for our patients nearing end of life. At breakfast and throughout the day, they enjoy everything from smoked salmon to freshly baked croissants.

The talent and tireless work of Catering Manager Lesley Henderson and her team – two cooks, six catering assistants, plus four ‘bank’ assistants and 30-plus big-hearted volunteers – is all part of our charity’s mission to help people live well to the end of their lives, focussing on what matters to them and making them as comfortable as possible.

But members of this busy team are not permanently confined to the kitchen in the basement – for some of them, their role includes seeing our patients on the ward on a daily basis. Every morning, they make their visit to chat to those in our care about that day’s menu, taking on board any special requests. And, if the food they really want that day is not on the menu, it’s not a problem. Lesley makes it a priority to ensure their wishes are met wherever possible, jumping in her car if necessary to visit the local supermarket.

Lesley first joined St Luke’s nearly 20 years ago as a catering assistant, having worked at the then Seaton Barracks military base in the city. She said: “From a full cooked breakfast to a three-course lunch, our patients enjoy our freshly prepared soups and meals every day.

“We put a lot of thought into our menus and we listen to their wishes – we will always try to give them whatever they want. We also work closely with our nurses so we’re up to speed on any allergies or intolerances patients might have, or whether their food needs to be liquidised to help them digest it. If it does, we still ensure it’s served up to look like a meal rather than one ‘drink’. Presentation matters.

“It’s crucial that we help make their last days comfortable as well as memorable for the right reasons. It’s also important for the families because naturally they want to see their loved ones eating well and enjoying their food.”

Lesley gets satisfaction knowing she and her colleagues have done all they can to enhance people’s experience at the unit.

She said: “What we do goes way beyond sourcing ingredients and preparing, cooking and serving food. We’ll help in any way we can and some of our most rewarding times have been decorating gazebos for weddings and baking cakes for special anniversaries.

“I’m proud to manage such a dedicated team that’s sometimes a bit of a ‘hidden army’ because they’re busily working away in the kitchen. They are a big-hearted bunch and often want to help even when they’re officially off duty, as they did at the recent barbecue we put on for the fireworks.

“We might not have as much face-to-face contact with patients as our nurses, but we know what we do makes a big contribution to the quality of St Luke’s service and it’s always appreciated when we hear how – by adding those thoughtful, special touches – we have brought a smile to a patient or their wife or grandson.

“It’s a difference we all feel privileged to make.”

Of course, the Catering Team are also the hardworking folk ensuring staff at the specialist unit are a well-fed workforce, who can enjoy delicious home-style meals to give them energy for a shift, or a tasty snack from the busy Driftwood Café, where the generously sized scones are now legendary! So famous, in fact, that members of the local ambulance crew are often seen popping in just to pick one up!

As well as thanking the Catering Team for all they do for St Luke’s we’ll close with a final word from Lesley. Any particularly memorable moments from the (almost) two decades she has given to St Luke’s?

She said: “The Tanner brothers once came here to cook for our patients as a special treat and wouldn’t leave without my recipes for vegetable cake and millionaire’s shortcake, so that was lovely!

“But what I treasure most is the laughter here – there’s sadness, of course, because it’s such a difficult time for families, but there are so many lighter moments, too, because St Luke’s is uplifting and we all support each other and enjoy what we do.”

If you want to get involved with this talented team, you can find out about volunteering opportunities here.

Cyclists of all ages are getting set for one of Devon’s boldest and most popular charity challenges this autumn, the Tour de Moor.

The annual event – now in its tenth year – takes place on Sunday 13 October, raising funds to help us continue our specialist end of life care for terminally ill people, helping them to live well to the end.

Sponsored by Print Copy Scan, a local supplier of printers and copiers, the challenge in the rugged wilds of Dartmoor offers cyclists the opportunity of an adrenalin-packed adventure: the hill-filled 52km mixed terrain route of mud, sweat and gears. Cycling at its fiercest for those aged 12 and above!

Alternatively, participants aged 9 and above can take it down a gear and saddle up for 23km of tough riding over hills and through woods, and there’s also the ‘mini moor’, a gentle 11km ride along the tarmac paths of Drake’s Trail that’s suitable for all the family.

As well as Tour de Moor providing for every level of cycling ability, the money it raises means our highly skilled team can give not just expert medical care but also emotional, practical and spiritual support to families at the most vulnerable of times, whether their loved one is being cared for at home, in hospital or at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Head of Fundraising, Penny Hannah, said: “Tour de Moor is always a terrific day. It’s fitness and muddy fun, and with three routes to choose from, it’s ideal for both families as well as more experienced cyclists who really want to push themselves.

“Taking on the challenge is a great opportunity to get on your bike and help us provide vital care and support to patients and their families across the local area, making every hill climb worth that extra effort!”

Director of Print Copy Scan, Karl Welburn, said, “The calibre of the care St Luke’s provides is second to none, but we mustn’t take it for granted because none of us know when we might need it. As the only specialist end of life care provider in this area, the charity needs continued support and that’s why we’re proud to sponsor Tour de Moor again this year. All the money raised by people participating goes directly to patient care.”

The Tour de Moor challenge departs from 8.30am at Harrowbeer Airfield, near Yelverton, and finishes there.

Sign up for the challenge at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/tourdemoor or by calling us on 01752 492626. Registration costs £30 for the 52km or 23km route, and £15 for the 11km route.

“My reaction was, good gracious! I just couldn’t take it in.”

When Ron Williams picked up the phone, he wasn’t expecting to hear he’d won top prize in our weekly lottery – so he was completely bowled over with the news that he had in fact scooped the £10,000 rollover!

For big-hearted Ron, playing our lottery year on year is all about backing the vital service we provide rather than winning, knowing it helps local families at the most challenging of times. Now, his unexpected windfall has been a wonderful surprise and, as he says, ‘out of this world’!

 

Compassion is at the heart of the service that we provide at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth. This is no different for our newly appointed Community Network Co-ordinator, Robyn Newport. For more than six months, Robyn has been out and about in the town, getting to know local business owners, voluntary groups and healthcare services to get more insight into what matters to them when it comes to living with terminal illness, looking after someone with it, and dealing with loss.

These conversations have helped shape the Compassionate End of Life Care Community that’s now established in the town, which – being in a rural area – is all the more needed since residents can find it harder to access services of all kinds, including the expert care that’s so vital when your time is running short.

Robyn said: “We are committed to coming alongside the communities we serve to realise the potential of informal networks and develop more effective ways to provide compassionate carer support and choice for people at end of life, so they can die in familiar surroundings with those they love.

“It’s a real privilege getting to know so many people, and it’s clear there’s so much care and compassion within Kingsbridge and the surrounding area. We now have 72 Compassionate Friends across the town – these are people who lend a helping hand or friendly ear to friends and neighbours who have a life limiting illness or are affected by loss.

“Our Compassionate Friends have spoken openly and honestly, helping to break down the taboos around death, dying and bereavement, and bust the unhelpful myths that surround them. They’ve thought about how they can have more compassionate conversations within their own circles and have seen first-hand how listening and doing small things to help people at times of crisis or loss can make such a huge difference.”

We would like to thank everyone in Kingsbridge who took part in Dying Matters Week earlier this year – you can see a review here.

Robyn is also encouraging more local people to get in touch. She said: “I’m keen to hear from those who caring for someone or have lost someone close to them. Those who might be needing extra support and would perhaps like someone to talk to.”

You can contact Robyn by e-mail or by phone on 01752 964250.

Looking to the next six months, Robyn is aiming to increase the number of Compassionate Friends, Champions and Co-ordinators in the area. She’s also looking forward to working with primary and secondary schools and local hospital teams to realise the potential of informal networks, developing more effective ways to provide compassionate support that helps ensure no-one in need feels isolated or overlooked.

Collaborating with our partners, other healthcare professionals, and our staff and volunteers has enabled us to set out a strategy to help us meet the significant challenges facing us as a charity. We are proud of the progress we have made over the last five years and that really is down to our hard-working, dedicated staff and volunteers and the continued backing of the community. There has been unwavering support for our organisation and we hope that the next five years will see the same level of incredible engagement.

To read our strategy for 2019-24, please click here.

Gathering together for the city’s most popular ladies’ night out, St Luke’s Midnight Walk, more than 1,300 women pounded the pavements on 20 July, raising funds for the specialist end of life care we provide for people at home, in hospital and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Stepping back in time and getting into the groove for this year’s fun 80s theme, the ladies shimmied in shoulder-pads and lunged in Lycra and legwarmers, setting off from the city centre on a 13, eight or three-mile route. Having loads of fun with friends and making it a night to remember, many were there celebrating the lives of lost loved ones and cherishing precious memories as they made new ones.

Along the way, the ladies continued to wholeheartedly embrace the 80s theme, with hair crimping, themed make-up and selfie stops against the backdrop of an 80s teenager’s bedroom.

Among those taking part in the event was Louise Dinham from Whitleigh.

She said: “Taking part in Midnight Walk is my way of thanking St Luke’s for the amazing way they looked after Dad so he could be at home, where he wanted to be. It’s a charity that really needs our support so they can be there for other families, too”

Medal in hand, and with an overwhelming sense of achievement, many of the participants then went on to dance the night away to a host of 80s anthems at Popworld in the city centre, where the after party took place.

Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, Penny Hannah, said: “From the dedications on the backs of all the tee-shirts it was clear to see the positive impact St Luke’s has had on so many local families in need at a time of crisis.

“We are hoping this year’s event will raise in the region of £165,000, as it did last year, enough to provide a complete package of care at home for 165 families, not just in Plymouth, but in South Hams and Dartmoor, too.

“I want to thank not only the ladies for taking part, but the people who made the event possible. That includes our army of amazing volunteers, our sponsors Nash & Co Solicitors, PL1 Events and the many other businesses and organisations who got behind us, as well as my fantastic St Luke’s colleagues for all their hard work in making it such a big success.”

Since Midnight Walk first began in 2007, the event has raised over £2m for St Luke’s care, powered by a caring community who have walked a total 233,677 miles for the charity they keep close to their heart.

Finally, after months of anticipation and with excitement filling the room, came the big reveal!

At a special launch event earlier this month at Herd HQ, the curtain was lifted on the mammoth mob of enchanting elephant sculptures ready for Elmer’s Big Parade, which is raising awareness and funds for St Luke’s this summer.

Among those gathered to get their eyes on our colourful gentle giants were the talented artists who’ve worked their magic to create the captivating array of bespoke designs, the big-hearted organisations who’ve got behind our charity by sponsoring the sculptures, and other St Luke’s supporters from across the city.

The event was an opportunity to get a preview of both the 40 elephants in the Parade – now live at landmark locations across Plymouth – plus the 25 mini Elmers painted by local schools, where 10,000 students have had fun learning about and creating art and where the St Luke’s team has come alongside staff to build their confidence and skills to enhance support for bereaved children. (The mini mob will be on display at Mount Edgecumbe until the Parade closes on 16 September.)

Special guest was the creative genius behind the much-loved Elmer storybooks, David McKee, who was born and educated in Plymouth.

He said: “I’m 84 now, so I’ve seen the way hospices help families. To find out there’s such a high percentage of children who know bereavement through the loss of someone close, and that St Luke’s is very involved in helping the children get through those periods, it’s incredible.

“It’s quite emotional really, knowing that something you started that long ago is not only still around, but new things from others have been made because of that. I suppose in a way, there is a sort of responsibility which you feel. Especially when you realise that it’s not just decorative – the cause is such a good one. Helping St Luke’s in any way is a good cause.”

With the Parade now live, our city is busy with people out on foot, discovering the sculptures, interacting with the app and social media and learning more about St Luke’s and our help for terminally ill people and their families.

Being Devon’s biggest art event of the year, the Parade is expected to attract 200,000 visitors, including many people who live outside Plymouth, giving the local economy a big boost and showcasing our stunning coastal location.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We couldn’t be more excited to see everyone get out and about across our city’s iconic locations to follow the herd.

“Along the way, they’ll learn more about the outstanding care and support St Luke’s provides for patients at home, in hospital and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

“To everyone who has put in the hours and gone the extra mile to make this fantastic summer extravaganza happen, I want to say a huge thank you. It would not have been possible without our hardworking staff and volunteers, as well as our sponsors and the companies who have given in kind. I feel very proud to be part of such an incredibly caring community.”

The grand finale of Elmer’s Big Parade will be the auction at which the sculptures will be going, going, gone to raise funds for St Luke’s, so be sure to see the herd before then.

The official trail map is available to download via the App Store, Google Play or available in print at St Luke’s charity shops and at Tourist Information.

Find out more at www.elmerplymouth.co.uk or follow the trail on social media: @ElmerPlymouth #ElmerPlymouth.

Our much-loved nurses were on hand for the launch of the new-look St Luke’s furniture store in Launceston at the beginning of this month.

The opening followed the closure of our outlet in the centre of the town back in February, with the new location on Hursdon Road carefully chosen by our charity so the furniture shop benefits from being opposite the busy retail park that includes popular names such as M&S Food and Costa Coffee, as well as free parking for customers.

Ours is the only second-hand furniture shop of this size in Launceston, offering quality preloved furniture including sofas and refurbished white goods. Also available are brand new mattresses, plus donated clothes, toys and bric-a-brac, at very reasonable prices.

Cash raised from sales at the shop will go towards the £7.8 million St Luke’s needs to raise to provide free-of-charge end of life care and support to families across the area. Last year, around 16% of St Luke’s care was delivered to patients in East Cornwall, with our team looking after many of them at home.

Shop Manager Karen Missen said: “We’re proud to be back in Launceston at this great location, alongside our other Cornish charity shops in Callington and Saltash.”

“After having my children, I worked for the NHS as a maternity healthcare assistant, then a shop manager, training manager and area manager in charity retail. I also spent much of the last decade as full-time carer for my parents. Sadly, they are no longer here, but after St Luke’s looked after mum in her last few weeks I know they would be so pleased to know I am working for such an amazing organisation. I feel privileged and excited to head the brilliant Launceston team.”

St Luke’s Head of Retail, Mike Picken, said: “It’s great to be back in this corner of Cornwall and we’re looking forward to welcoming customers old and new to this more accessible location.

“We offer a free-of-charge, seven-days-a-week furniture collection service and we’ll stretch every penny we raise to offer brilliant care to people in our local communities.”

If you or anyone you know would like to arrange for St Luke’s to collect large items of furniture, please call 01752 964455 (Mon – Fri, 8.30am – 5pm).

Across Derriford Hospital are St Luke’s specialist doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers who work alongside the hospital staff, using their expertise in end of life care and support to make a difference to terminally ill patients across every ward in their last weeks and days of life.

This dedicated team – which looks after 26% of all St Luke’s patients – is celebrating a prestigious regional award that’s all the more special because the nomination came from the very people who benefit from the compassionate care the team gives, our patients. The accolade – the Special Category Silver Award – has been bestowed upon the team in the Outstanding Care Awards for Devon and Cornwall, which are organised by the Care Network Group.

Each year, the awards celebrate those working in the care sector, from the emergency services to catering teams, highlighting the huge contribution of those who consistently go beyond the call of duty and to whom we all owe such a debt a gratitude.

The ‘Special Category’ recognises those who’ve made the biggest overall impact on the sector. The nomination for our team stated that St Luke’s is a service ‘Plymouth cannot live without’, emphasising how each hospital patient is treated with ‘the utmost respect from start to finish’ and how the team’s sensitivity and attention to detail gives families a ‘real sense of ease’ when their loved one is being looked after.

Martin Thomas, Head of the Hospital team at St Luke’s, said: “Our work is demanding and the pressure can often feel relentless, but we love what we do and feel very privileged to be there for people at such a challenging time, listening to what matters to them, preserving their dignity and making them as comfortable as possible.

“To know that those we care for have gone out of their way to nominate our close-knit team for this award means so much to us.”

George Lillie, St Luke’s Clinical Director and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Our partnership with Derriford Hospital means that across the wards patients with life-limiting conditions can receive high-quality co-ordinated care and support at end of life. St Luke’s presence there is about more than expert hands-on medical care, it’s support and reassurance for patients and their families, too.

“Martin and the rest of the team are so deserving of this award and we couldn’t be more proud of them.”

A big-hearted powerhouse of a fundraiser, a selfless, long-serving volunteer and a woman who has helped countless families emotionally and practically during their toughest times were celebrated at last night’s Plymouth Community Awards 2019 – and St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth was the link between them!

The annual awards, which note the achievements of those who go above and beyond to help those in need across our city, recognised three of our ambassadors and we couldn’t be prouder!

Cuz Cusson, who lives in Mutley, was presented with a Special Recognition award in honour of his tireless fundraising for our charity. He’s the founder of Rockfest, the popular annual live music extravaganza that is well established in Plymouth and has now raised an incredible £100,000-plus for us in memory of Cuz’s much-missed mum Dot, who received our care.

Jeannie Norris, who is in her 80s, received a Lifetime Achievement award celebrating her amazing volunteering history with St Luke’s. She has exceeded three decades of giving her time and skills unpaid to help our charity shops provide a welcoming and helpful service for bargain hunters. And she’s still going strong there, with the energy and enthusiasm that comes from her passion for seeing our vital service continue.

Recently retired Janet Hearl, also received a Lifetime Achievement Award because for more than ten years, she went above and beyond in her work as our Bereavement Support Worker. She was celebrated for the immeasurable difference she made, coming alongside patients and their loved ones with understanding, empathy and solid practical advice at their times of greatest need.

Huge congratulations from us to all three – we couldn’t wish for better ambassadors and we hope you had a wonderful day.