Volunteering Archives - East Cheshire Hospice

Making a difference with Hospice Befrienders

A befriender service is making a real difference to those who feel isolated towards the end of life.

The East Cheshire Hospice scheme has been popular since it was set up 18 months ago by the Hospice’s Volunteering Lead Helena Smith.

Helena said: “The befrienders service is for people receiving palliative care, approximately in the last year of life. It’s all about the person not being a patient – it’s about being them.

“We also support their carers, whether it’s so they can have a break, or as friendship and support for them – carers can really struggle too. It’s not for people with dementia, but we do have a similar service for them.

“We have about 30 befrienders. They’re amazing, utterly exceptional people and we’d like to recruit more. I’m so lucky to have so many.

Helena Smith, Volunteering Lead at East Cheshire Hospice.

“We’re serving people who are lonely and isolated and it’s about making connections and relationships.

“We’ve a nice range of befrienders, age wise and background wise, and as the role involves a couple of hours commitment a week it can often be fitted around work.

“A couple of our volunteers work full time and visit in the evenings. They’re few and far between, but there are ways and means.

“Importantly, they’re all helping people in their own community. People may not know what needs there are around them and the service runs best when it’s helping people in their communities.

Befrienders at East Cheshire Hospice.

“We match on personality. If you’re going to spend time together, I make sure you’re going to get on.”

Helena is happy to hear from patients and carers. Users do not need to be a Hospice patient to take part, they just need to be in the last year of life, and not have a dementia diagnosis.

She said: “We’re open for referrals. If anyone reading this article thinks it would help someone they know, then give me a call for a chat.

“This supports non-medical needs which are as vital as physical health.

“At the Hospice, we’re all about allowing people to be themselves despite their circumstances. While much of our care might require a more medical approach, this service is completely different to that.

“In at least half of cases where there is a carer, we end up supporting them quite intensively as well.”

* Call the team on 01925 664984 or email volunteers@echospice.org.uk for more details.

Jack Hartley has added an extra round to his deliveries

Paper boy Jack Hartley has added an extra round to his deliveries promoting the Christmas tree collection for East Cheshire Hospice.

Jack has been handing out leaflets on Sunday mornings to help a charity which means a lot to his family.

Grandparents Philip and Olwen Hobson, from Macclesfield, died within three months of each other in 2015 and both were patients at the Hospice.

Mum Carole works for the charity as a bereavement counsellor.

Jack is volunteering by distributing leaflets for three months to earn his bronze certificate as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

Jack Hartley out on his rounds delivering leaflets.

Carole said: “Jack wanted to do something for the Hospice because of his nana and grandpa. Since he’s 14, there were limited options for how he could volunteer, so this has worked out quite well.

“I take him out and help him a bit, though he’s used to delivering because of his paper round.

“The Hospice is very special to us as a family and we like to help out and support whenever we can.”

Once the tree collection is over, Jack will deliver leaflets asking for volunteers to help those with dementia.

The Hospice runs a Dementia Befrienders service providing respite for carers and they need more assistance.

* If you can help contact angela.omahony@echospice.org.uk

Christmas Tree Collection 2024 countdown is on!

The countdown is under way to the trail-blazing East Cheshire Hospice Christmas Tree Collection scheme which is proving an inspiration to other charities.

Registrations are open for the 24th edition of the event over the weekend of January 13/14.

Around 130 other hospices now run similar fundraising schemes inspired by the East Cheshire Hospice model which is believed to be the largest volunteer-led Christmas tree collection in the world.

Volunteers ready to start the Christmas tree collection last January.

The scheme, sp0nsored by AstraZeneca, has raised more than £1.75m after another £150,000 was generated for patient care last winter.

Co-founders Pete Chapman and Richard Raymond have been out and about again advising other hospices since the last of nearly 7000 trees were recycled on their scheme in January.

Richard said: “It’s all systems go for us again in 2024 and hopefully the collection is just as popular.

“The other schemes started from our original idea and the inspiration we’ve given to them is the icing on the cake for us.

“Many have been in touch with us. This year for example, Pete and I have been to Leeds and Chesterfield and we had a Zoom call with a hospice in Scotland. I also went down to Harrow and Wealdstone and talked to them.

“Our message is that it’s an innovative piece of fundraising at a really important time of the year for hospices and you can build it to what you want.

Christmas tree scheme co-founders Richard Raymond (left) and Pete Chapman.

“The scheme has many spin-offs. It brings new volunteers to the hospice movement and obviously raises funds which is the crucial thing.

“There’s also the recycling element with the eco-friendly benefits, while it reaches out into the community and forms partnerships with commercial concerns.

“The other hospices think it’s a great idea and in many cases they’ve just needed the impetus and confidence. If they hit a snag, we’re on the end of a phone or email to answer any questions and point them in the right direction.”

Post codes covered by East Cheshire Hospice volunteers are once again CW12, SK9, SK10, SK11, SK12 and WA16. Collection vans will leave the Hospice in staggered starts.

Sponsorship by local business means all donations go straight to the Hospice. Organisers are already considering how to celebrate the 25th anniversary in 2025.

*To register visit www.echtrees.org.uk.

A successful Firewalk story

Greeting visitors with a warm smile comes naturally to Anne Brander and Julie Mills as volunteers on reception at East Cheshire Hospice.

But stepping over hot coals for the same good cause was well out of their comfort zone.

The friends braved a Fire Walk along with other fundraisers at Macclesfield Rugby Club, with some also tackling an Ice Walk over broken glass.

The pair settled just for the challenge of the burning embers and for Anne the Hospice has a special place in her heart.

Late husband Angus was a patient there in 1996. He was just 42 when he died from lung cancer.

Ready to face the fire … fundraisers get a warm reception.

Anne said: “The Fire Walk was something I wanted to do for the Hospice. Angus loved it there and it was the right place for him in his final days.

“They looked after the whole family, including our daughters Clare and Alison who were 16 and 10 at the time.

“He was peaceful and comfortable there and all these years later it’s nice to see how the Hospice has grown and how things have moved on and developed.

“Working on reception is varied meeting all sorts of people. You’re the first point of contact and it’s important you have a welcoming smiley face.

Volunteers Anne Brander (left) and Julie Mills at the Fire Walk. 

“I felt a great sense of achievement doing the Fire Walk. There was a great atmosphere with everyone cheering each other on and I was proud to be part of it.

“I was slightly nervous and excited but wasn’t scared. It was something I really wanted to do.”

Anne and Julie met through education circles. Anne worked at Wilmslow High School and both attended admissions appeals with Julie employed by Cheshire East Council.

Julie said: “We go back a while and got together and said let’s have a go at the Fire Walk.

“We supported each other and the Hospice and also to prove to ourselves that we can do silly things at our age.

“We’re aware how much it costs to keep the Hospice going and it’s much needed by the community.

“Volunteering is rewarding. I like meeting people and wanted to do something for the community when I retired.

“I was apprehensive but common sense told me it’s mind over matter. Someone won’t ask me to do something when I’m going to get injured. I’m not saying I won’t do the Ice Walk next time.”

Britain in Bloom awards

Volunteer gardeners at East Cheshire Hospice are celebrating after earning an accolade at the Britain in Bloom awards.

East Cheshire Hospice received a certificate in the Hospice category at the RHS regional awards.

Judges made their recommendation after touring the remodelled Hospice grounds.

Some of the volunteer gardeners with their RHS certificate.

The space includes a sensory garden, vegetable and herb patch and a memory garden.

The RHS honour is reward for the hard work from gardening enthusiasts who have painstakingly created a lay-out designed to provide a peaceful retreat for patients and visitors.

Volunteers from corporate supporters also helped with digging and preparing the grounds for planting.

Michelle Walker-Brown, the Hospice general services manager, said: “We’re delighted to receive this recognition at the Britain in Bloom awards.

“Every category is highly competitive so to get this acknowledgement from the RHS is reward for the terrific efforts made by volunteers and staff.

“We place great emphasis on sustainability both indoors and outdoors at the Hospice with energy efficiency vitally important.”

The Hospice is undergoing a renovation of its Sunflower Wellbeing Centre, limiting garden design work in that corner of the site. The work is due to finish in the New Year.

The Hospice uses water butts to reduce reliance on mains supplies; grows fruit and vegetables in empty laundry liquid tubs and uses old tyres from Hospice @Home cars for planters as part of its green initiative.

The Hospice featured in the gold award won by Macclesfield at last year’s RHS awards.

East Cheshire Hospice goes for Britain in Bloom

Judges have been casting their expert eye over the gardens at East Cheshire Hospice for the Britain in Bloom awards.

The Hospice is hoping to win the hospice category at the RHS regional awards with the results announced next month.

Gardening enthusiasts have been hard at work creating a floral wonderland for patients and visitors after businesses answered a plea for help.

Volunteers from corporate supporters Leap 29 and Barclays helped dig and prepare the grounds before planting took place.

 Michelle Walker-Brown from the Hospice with Ryan Simpson (left) from Viridis Plants and David Hadley from Creative Gardens and Driveways

Bramhall-based Creative Gardens and Driveways, owned by David Hadley, organised a £1,000 plant donation from supplier Viridis Plants for the makeover.

David ensured expert horticultural advice was given. He said: “When I heard the appeal, I knew immediately that we had to help.

“Plants play such an uplifting role in our lives and it was clear the hospice recognised the comfort that spending time among nature brings patients and their families.

“It was an honour to help a local organisation in need.”

Volunteer Hospice gardeners played a key role in activities overseen by Michelle Walker-Brown, the charity’s general services manager.

Michelle said: “It has been a real team effort and we’re so grateful for all the help. Having peaceful and beautiful plants in the Hospice grounds makes a genuine difference to families.

Flower power…another donation arrives at East Cheshire Hospice.

“The community spirit is amazing, showing once more just how much the public and business care about our patients.”

Judges toured the revamped Hospice grounds, which include a sensory garden, vegetable and herb patch and a memory garden.

The Hospice’s green credentials have already earned a business award with sustainability at the heart of each outdoor area. For example …

* Water butts reduce reliance on mains supplies.

* Empty laundry liquid tubs were cleaned to grow strawberries and salad vegetables for patient menus.

* Baked bean and plum tomato tins gave new life to house plants.

* Old tyres from Hospice @Home cars were turned into planters, along with wooden pallets.

Wildflowers planted around the hospice grounds attract bees and butterflies.

Daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinth and snowdrop bulbs bloom each year around the grounds and in pots. Small Christmas trees replanted in a nursery area will be re-potted in internal gardens outside patient rooms and wards.

The Hospice was part of the gold award won by Macclesfield at the 2022 awards and is going for more glory after learning there is a hospice category this year.

Our Memory Tree is planted

The newest arrival at East Cheshire Hospice is a Memory Tree ready to be decorated with leaves.

Supporters can dedicate a leaf engraved with a short message to someone special.

The metal sculpture amid wild flowers in a discreet setting at the back of the Hospice is already admired by volunteer gardeners.

Among them Bob Burton, a neighbour who planted the tree with fundraiser Nik Kalka.

Fundraiser Nik Kalka (left) and gardening volunteer Bob Burton with the newly-installed Memory Tree.

Bob said: “The Memory Tree is a cracking idea and will hopefully generate income. People I know who’ve walked past say it looks like a piece of art anyway up against the wall.

“It’s a lot different than I imagined and there are small holes where leaves can be attached.

“The gardens are so serene which is how it should be round here. It’s lovely and peaceful and we have a great team of gardeners.”

Bob, a retired health and safety adviser with GMP, has volunteered at the Hospice for a year, having helped the homeless and at food banks.

A ginnel from his home of 34 years provides a cut through to the Hospice. Bob’s late brother-in-law Mel Withey was a Hospice patient.

Bob said: “I’ve always had an involvement with the charity as it’s so local. The gardeners meet every Wednesday morning, but because I live so close if I see it’s dry I can whip round and cut the grass.”

Some 400 copper, silver and bronze leaves are available and subscribers do not need a Hospice link.

A subscription is £10 a month, or £120 for a year. Employees from AstraZeneca gifted the new memorial.

The tree is easily accessible without entering the Hospice building, with parking available.

Individual Giving Fundraiser Beth England said: “Visitors can come along at any time and the gardens provide a beautiful backdrop.

“There’s privacy and with benches it’s the ideal place to reflect and remember a loved one.

“Each leaf can be inscribed with a short message if donors wish and funds raised provide vital revenue for the Hospice.”

“Your leaf will remain on the tree for a year, at which point you can choose to either renew its place for a further year or we can return the leaf to you to treasure forever.”

* To sign up to the Memory Tree visit www.eastcheshirehospice.org.uk/memory-tree.

For queries, contact amy.williams@echospice.org.uk or call 01625 665688.

Memory Tree Gardeners

Retired nurse Lindsay Taylor kept a promise to herself by joining the band of volunteers tending to the East Cheshire Hospice gardens.

Lindsay, from Macclesfield, said: “I was a nurse at the Hospice and always said that when I retired I’d like to garden here because I like the gardens so much.

“I wanted to give something back and have been here about four years. It’s great fun and the volunteers are such a nice friendly gang.

Gardening volunteers (from left) Carol Bonner, Lindsay Taylor, Carol Waterhouse, Pat Dawson and Olwen Gibson.

“Sometimes patients will come out and admire the gardens. The husband of one patient came out and said ‘I’ll do a bit while I’m here.’

“It was quite sweet really and everyone does appreciate the gardens.”

Fellow volunteer Carol Waterhouse left her job as Hospice ward manager in 2016 to set up a home help business.

She said: “I came back on to the nursing register in 2021 during Covid and do bank shifts for Hospice @Home now I’m semi-retired.

“Gardening here is a lovely thing to do and all we want is to make a difference.”

Olwen Gibson is one of the newest gardening recruits. She said: “I realised I’d got the time and wanted to do something useful. It’s such an enjoyable outdoor activity.”

Carol Bonner, a volunteer for two years, said: “It gets me out and about and I like the idea of a Hospice and what they do. I’ve got the time to help and prefer to be outdoors rather than inside.”

Hazel Buckley and her handmade goods story

Great grandmother Hazel Buckley is one of the oldest East Cheshire Hospice volunteers and one of the youngest at heart.

Hazel was 90 in February, but shows no sign of slowing down her knitting which she has done since she was seven.

Hazel, from Tytherington, helps by making handmade goods which raise funds for the charity through donations.

Knitter Hazel with great granddaughters Poppy (left), Amber and Olive (front).

Hazel said: “I’ve got a badge that says ‘When I’m sitting I’m knitting’ and that describes me perfectly. I knit whenever I’m watching television.

“I couldn’t not knit. My age is just a date on a piece of paper isn’t it? My brain is just as good as ever.

“My fingers are a bit arthritic and going a bit knobbly but they keep working. I’ll keep knitting because I enjoy the challenge.

“I don’t need a pattern and can make them up. I can crochet but prefer knitting and anything that involves using my fingers. I also paint and won second prize in a show in Sutton.”

Hazel was encouraged to knit by her mother Alice and was taught the craft at school.

Hazel Buckley with a selection of her handiwork.

She has volunteered for the Hospice for three years since going to a lunch there. Her handiwork used to be sold in a Macclesfield shop, earning enough to pay her grocery bills.

She makes gifts of all shapes and sizes, including matching Grief Bears and hearts, Easter humpties and festive designs and knits bespoke items to order.

Hazel said: “The Hospice does such a wonderful job. I don’t know how people can possibly manage without them.

“Staff are so nice and I’ve met quite a few of them. They’re lovely and devoted.”

Hazel and daughter Claire covered a bike with knitting to promote a bikeathon at Just Drop In, a centre where her other daughter Jain raised funds with a Kilimanjaro climb.

The bike Hazel and daughter Claire knitted over

Hazel has five grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren and was a GPO telephonist. She also worked as a summer temp on the main switchboard at Manchester Airport, situated in the Ops tower.

Hazel added: “It was the best job I ever had. It was exciting, especially with the buzz of working at the airport.

“The switchboard room was right on the side of the runway. We saw the planes coming in and dealt with flight inquiries as well as emergencies.”

Dementia Companion John Gray shares his story

Volunteer John Gray is hoping others follow in his footsteps by becoming a dementia companion for East Cheshire Hospice.

The retired engineer spends two hours a week going for a walk and a coffee with a dementia patient.

The Hospice needs more volunteers and John has a simple message for anyone tempted to help.

East Cheshire Hospice volunteer John Gray.

He said: “Give it a go. I find it extremely rewarding and it’s nice to give something back.”

John only started six months ago once renovations on his new home in Macclesfield were finished. He and wife Susan moved from St Helens to Macclesfield to be closer to their daughter.

He said: “When we were finally settled in the house I thought it was time I did some volunteering and contacted the Hospice.

“The man I go out with has become a friend. His short-term memory isn’t good but we manage fine and he brings his dog along. We always fit a coffee stop into our route.

“The break gives his wife who cares for him valuable respite and an opportunity to do something else for a couple of hours.

“I’d recommend getting involved and I know the Hospice are keen to recruit more dementia companions.

“The support from the Hospice is fantastic. They help you every step of the way.” John is also a ward volunteer for the charity.

Angela O’Mahony, from the Hospice volunteering team, said: “We’re looking for friendly, caring people willing to give a few hours every week to offer companionship to someone experiencing dementia. Volunteers are given full training and support.

“Caring for someone can be a tough job and wearing no matter how much we love them. Both the carer and the person experiencing dementia will benefit from a change of scene once a week.

“Every case varies with different circumstances, but it’s about connecting with that person. Our volunteers love working with people, it’s interesting and rewarding.

“We rely heavily on our volunteers and without them the Hospice wouldn’t be here.”

* Contact Angela on 01625 610364, or email angela.omahony@echospice.org.uk

National Volunteers Week has been running in the first week of June. The Hospice has a team of 375 volunteers who do a range of roles working at the charity’s headquarters and in the community.