Volunteering Archives - East Cheshire Hospice

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.

Prestbury Pharmacy fundraises for East Cheshire Hospice

A chemist shop has joined forces with craft makers to come up with the right prescription for East Cheshire Hospice.

More than £7,600 has been raised from customer donations at Prestbury Village Pharmacy over three years.

Angela Ball, dispenser at Prestbury Village Pharmacy, which supports craft makers.

In exchange, shoppers pick one of countless items made by crafters with proceeds donated to the charity.

The volunteers started off as a group making scrubs for healthcare professionals in Covid and then turned their attention to face masks.

Founder Sheila MacLaren said: “When the need for face coverings diminished we decided it would be nice to stay together as a group.

“We could also meet face-to-face after restrictions were lifted, only ever having waved at each other from a distance previously.

“With the help of Ruth Moyes and Angela Raval, we morphed into a craft group and broadened it to more than just sewing. We now also knit, crotchet, make cards and patchwork. We also make novelties at Easter and Christmas.

Sheila MacLaren (left) with fellow members of Prestbury Craft Group.

“We’re extremely grateful to pharmacist David Wood and his staff for allowing us to put items on display with proceeds collected in a tin.”

Around 15-20 of the group meet every Wednesday from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm at the Legh Arms. Coffee, tea, cake, crafting and chatting are on the agenda.

David said: “We’re a community pharmacy, so are delighted to help how we can. The craft group make some amazing designs all for a good cause which is our fantastic Hospice.”

Gail and Lawrence Robinson’s volunteering journey

Gardening, baking cakes, singing, flower arranging and moving furniture…all to help East Cheshire Hospice.

That is a typical week for volunteers Lawrence and Gail Robinson whose vocation in life is to help others.

The Macclesfield couple are continuing a family tradition.

Lawrence, a retired solicitor, said: “It’s inbred and we’re carrying on from how our parents lived their lives.

“They were very involved in the community and that’s how we see life, helping others, or doing things for them.”

Wife Gail will garden at the Hospice every Wednesday from March 1, as part of the 12-strong group who have already been out planting snowdrops in the new courtyard.

Gail is also a stand-by flower arranger, bakes cakes for coffee mornings and sings in Claritas Choir, which supports the Hospice.

Their next concert is at Packhorse Bowling Club on March 23.

Gail Robinson (second right) with fellow volunteer gardeners in 2021. From left, Mark Reddiough, Pat Dawson, Nev Wardle, Gail and Lindsay Taylor.

Gail also encourages visitors to buy Hospice items at the library charity card shop, while volunteering for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and The Children’s Society at Christmas.

She is a church warden at St John the Evangelist Church, where Lawrence is treasurer and ‘general dogsbody.’ Gail is also a governor at St John’s School.

Gail said: “It’s a full week, especially as I look after my elderly mother and I’m also a guider and advise on diversity and inclusion for Cheshire Border Girlguides.

“We’ve a Brownie and Rainbow arts day coming up and have a deaf Brownie, so I’ll go along and make sure her provision is sufficient.

“I’m also a signer. I was Lay Chaplain for Deaf and Disabled People in Chester Diocese for 18 years, signing at weddings, baptisms, funerals and regular communion services. I also advised churches on accessibility.”

Meanwhile, Lawrence drives furniture vans. He said: “We volunteer to support the work of the Hospice. We’re fortunate we’ve never had a close relative in need of its services, but we’ve lost several friends whose families really appreciated the care.”

Their daughter Nancy was born with arthrogryposis, a rare muscle disorder, though Gail’s interest in disability began as a schoolgirl.

She lived near Seashell Trust, in Cheadle Hulme, when it was a school for the Deaf.

She said: “That got me interested in signing. I wanted to communicate with the kids on swings in the park.

“I learned to finger spell in the brownies and that started my interest in communication with the Deaf.”

* If you are interested in donating a small amount of time to support the Hospice visit www.eastcheshirehospice.org.uk/volunteer-with-us/ to find out more.

Furniture Round

Carrying furniture and old Christmas trees is essentially Lawrence Robinson’s voluntary role for East Cheshire Hospice.

He is out and about every Saturday on the van run doing the rounds delivering and collecting sofas, settees, tables and chairs. He also fills in on odd weekdays.

The charity generates around £10,000 a month selling recycled furniture donated by the public.

Gail and Lawrence Robinson (right) with fellow furniture volunteer John Butler.

Lawrence said: “It’s hard work, but great fun. Sometimes there’s heavy lifting, so you need to be reasonably fit.

“There’s always two of us and we make every effort to put furniture where people want it in the home.

“We get a job sheet telling us where to go. We either collect furniture donated from homes, or deliver bought items to them.

“We average about five trips a day, and today, for example we’ll pick up a table and chairs from the Poynton shop and take them to Ashton-under-Lyne.

“People appreciate what we do and all the funds raised go to the care of patients.”

He joined the Hospice through his church connections with Richard Raymond, co-founder of the charity’s Christmas tree collection scheme.

Once on the tree team, Lawrence answered a call for furniture volunteers almost three years ago.

He said: “As usual, the tree collection was a lot of fellowship and fun this year. We just try to do our best for people out there who want to support the Hospice.”

* To donate furniture call co-ordinator Toni Walsh on 07917 942273 or email furniture@echospice.org.uk.