Spotlight On: Liz Munro a fundraising volunteer, ‘par excellence’ #hospicehero #wirralhospice #caring #fundraising #fun # volunteer #thankyou

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Wirral Hospice St John’s fundraising office is a hive of activity. There are constant phone-calls and a steady flow of people popping in to make donations, to join various events, sign up for the hospice lottery and drop off prizes (including contributions to our famous in-patients ward’s drinks trolley!) Very often, people from other teams and/or hospice trustees and ambassadors meet in fundraising to share ideas and news from around the place.

Our fundraisers are busy bees. They’re dedicated, driven and conscientious, but, they’ll all tell you, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as efficient without the help of a supportive and highly motivated group of volunteers, each bringing their unique personality, skill and experience to the team.

Today we focus on ‘one of the quiet ones’ (or so you would think) the invaluable and gently effective, Liz Munro.

Liz doesn’t make any fuss in the office. She’s there every Tuesday from 10am to 4pm, handling calls politely while, often simultaneously, packing envelopes, collating information, accepting card payments and sorting through all kinds of fundraising paraphernalia.

When she finds a minute she’ll also get all the teas and coffees in! This unassuming lady is an absolute diamond, the kind of person who, if you had a need she’d help you as much as she could.

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When I ask her to tell us how she got involved with the hospice and some of her ‘real life’, she’s typically humble: “I’ll tell you everything about me in about 5 minutes and you’ll have nothing to use.” I think she genuinely means it, but there’s plenty worth sharing.

Born and raised in Wirral, Liz attended Upton Hall FCJ before leaving for Durham University where she graduated in PE. Her first job was teaching PE at Helsby Grammar School before moving to Crewe Grammar where she spent a further 11 years. Liz is definitely a sports enthusiast – more about that later!

Her career continued in learning with the education advisory service and, based in nearby Ellesmere Port, Liz became an ‘Education Visitor’. This made learning accessible to people of all ages who might not have necessarily thrived in mainstream education. Liz’s commitment to community and public service has been a mainstay of her life.

Liz finally retired in 2004 when the primary school she was working at, Stanlaw Abbey, merged with another to become Oaks Primary School.

By that time she had already been volunteering at Wirral Hospice St John’s for 3 years. You see, her husband and the love of her life, Keith, had passed away at the hospice in 2001.

Liz tells me a little bit more about Keith. He was from Tain in Scotland (where they make the famous Glenmorangie Whisky). In the RAF he developed a love of languages and went on to study German and Russian at Edinburgh University. He was lecturing in Russian at the old Liverpool Polytechnic (now Liverpool John Moores University) when they met.

Liz positively beams when talking about her children and grandchildren. Keith and Liz were married in 1978 and Keith brought two children, Andrew and Jamie, to the relationship. Liz describes them, now in their 50’s, as just delightful! They have given Liz four of her, soon to be six, grandchildren. Soon to be?  Yes, Liz and Keith also have another daughter, Annie, who is mum of grandaughter, Ella, and now grandchild number six is due in March. Wonderful!

When speaking about Keith’s time in the hospice, he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, Liz remembers, “He was made to feel so comfortable. The staff and volunteers showed great courtesy, patience and were so attentive to his needs. Their kindness was priceless.”

She recalls a nice story when Keith wanted some peaches for his dessert, “Del Monté, mind” he requested. Naturally, the Man from Del Monté said, YES!

Keith died here in July 2001 at the age of 64.

Later that year, Liz began to volunteer for the hospice. Her first campaign contribution was for Light Up a Life in 2001. Liz would take home the hundreds of remembrance Christmas cards to be sorted and packed for posting to all the people who had made their invaluable donations.

In the next year Liz, with family, friends and neighbours hosted a ‘Titanic’ themed event to raise funds for the hospice. Guests were asked to dress for ‘steerage’ or ‘first class’. A gangplank was built up to the front of the house, adorned with lifebelts, a sailboat positioned next to an iceberg (a sheet draped over Annie’s old swing) in the garden.  A string quartet, featuring Annie, played until fireworks signified the ship going down at midnight. “People still talk about the day, it was Keith’s wish to hold it and we managed to raise a nice sum for the hospice.”

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Sporty Liz missed her games of tennis with Keith and, late in 2002, a friend encouraged her to have a go at golf. After just a few lessons she was hooked, “like some of my shots”, Liz laughs. Soon afterwards she joined, what was then, Wirral Ladies Golf Club in Oxton.

It wouldn’t be long before Liz became embroiled in life at the golf club. So much so that, by 2011, she was named the club’s Captain . What an honour! However, Liz broke many conventions in 2012 by being chosen for a further year. Historically, Liz was the very last ‘female only’ Captain of the golf club as, to comply with equality law, the club has had both a female and male captain since 2012.

Liz chose Wirral Hospice St John’s as her club’s charity of the year in both years as captain. The members insisting that she would have no problem gaining their support, “Wirral Hospice touches everyone here”, they told her. Again, very welcome funds were raised towards helping the hospice maintain our specialist palliative care and support services.

In 2018, Liz and her golf buddy, Janet Mills, made a personal donation to have the hospice featured on a sign on the 6th hole of their newly renamed Wirral Golf Club. 

Thank You, again and again and again. Liz, you are a Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteer, ‘par excellence.’liz 2

Author: Billy Howard

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Spotlight On: Ann Dermody, a valiant volunteer at the heart of our Liscard shop #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #caring #wellbeing #fun #shopping #thankyou

Ann DWhen you meet somebody who has been volunteering in our charity shops for over 22 years, it goes without saying; they have made an immense contribution. One such person, Ann Dermody, Irish Ann as she’s known locally, is having none of it, “I’ve gotten more out of volunteering for the hospice than I’ve ever given back.”

Wow! Ann, we need to talk!

At Wirral Hospice St John’s our volunteers are engaged in all kinds of activities that help us achieve so much. If you asked people to tell you what our volunteers do they might say things like, delivering tea and other refreshments to patients, helping at hospice events, working on reception, stuffing envelopes, fundraising, facilitating meaningful activities with patients in our Wellbeing Centre and a whole range of other invaluable duties.

What is sometimes overlooked (not by us at the hospice) is that we have an army of volunteers based in our Wirral community. There are around 120 volunteers in our six charity shops in Heswall, West Kirby, Moreton, New Brighton, Liscard and Claughton.

Our volunteers are priceless. Whether it’s keeping shelves stocked, sorting through a mountain of donated items, hanging clothes, window dressing, serving customers and helping to bring in those vital funds so the hospice can deliver its essential palliative care and support services.

Nowadays, Ann volunteers at our newest shop at Liscard Way, Liscard, which has been open for around 16 months. (It’s next door to McDonald’s).  Ann migrated from our New Brighton shop where she worked for around 20 years.

I get to Liscard at 9am, the shop is already open and it’s already a hive of retail activity. Wallasey people are up early for a bargain and Ann is in the middle of helping a customer. At the end of their transaction the customer leaves with a cheery, “thank you, see you soon, Ann.” They all know her!

Eventually we get to sit down in the office at the back of the store and chat over a cuppa. Ann’s got some notes prepared and below is her ‘real-life’ story;

I was born in Ireland on March 5th, 1947. Both of my parents died very young. 6 months after my father died my mother died after giving birth to me. I was the youngest of 8 children.

In those days there was only the orphanage to go to, so the girls went in one and the boys in another.

Life felt cruel and hard, the nuns were harsh. No love was shown to anyone and we were not allowed to show love to each other. I never understood this. We never got a Christmas present. I left aged 16 and was given over to work on a farm.

A year later I went with a friend to London. London was so busy with all kinds of different people I’d never met or understood before. It wasn’t long before I moved to the relative calm of Wallasey to stay with my brother. Here I met my husband.

My blessing in life is that I have four wonderful children. Through them I learned what love is. I now have 8 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Although my husband and I divorced, I didn’t worry. I was strong, as long as I had my family, I was okay!

As my children grew up I had more time for myself. I went back to college and passed ‘A’ Level Math’s, English and Sociology. I proved to myself that I wasn’t stupid, as the nun’s had said.

I’ve done voluntary work for around 30 years. Firstly, I volunteered for the charity, Shelter, and now 22 years for Wirral Hospice St John’s. I love doing it; every donation is a gift of kindness. Many people I know, who have donated goods, want to repay our wonderful nurses for the care they’ve given to someone they love.

The shops are here to make as much money as we can and, to borrow a famous saying, every little helps! People are also happy when they receive a bargain. I see love and kindness every day. I can’t think of a better way to spend my days because where else would you see this but in a charity shop.

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(Ann is pictured between fellow volunteers, Pam and Pat, and with Liscard Shop Manager, Mags (right)).

In her engaging Irish brogue, Ann compliments Mags, “I don’t call her that, I call her Margaret, it’s a beautiful name. She knows her business, she’s very focused and looks after us volunteers!”

I ask Ann about volunteering at the hospice itself and she says she has nothing but tremendous admiration for those who do, but it’s not where her experience most benefits us. She talks about the people who come into the shop, and other volunteer colleagues, who have had family experience of the hospice, her empathy for them and just how much that they want to help.

“I like people. It’s lovely to have people around and to help them sometimes. We owe it to every person who donates to get the best possible return for them and for the hospice.”

Ann, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We’re truly fortunate that you’re one of our hospice heroes.

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: #wirralhospice #lottery; a chance to win, a way to care… EVERY WEEK #hospicelottery #inittowinit #lotterywinner #charity #wirral #wirralhospice

Lottery ballsOn the 2nd Jan, 1998, the Spice Girls were topping the charts with their famous ballad, Too Much. It was the same day as Wirral Hospice St John’s ran our first lottery draw. The first £2,000 jackpot winner certainly didn’t think it was ‘too much’ and many more people since, can only agree.

Today, our hospice lottery has grown to around 12,500 players every week making a massive contribution to the essential specialist palliative care and support services our charity provides for the people of Wirral.

Wirral Hospice’s lottery is a fun way to get involved and to have a chance of winning a decent cash prize. However, many people will say that they’re NOT in it to win it and see it very much as a way of showing their support. It’s all above board as we’re regulated by the Gambling Commission and we always ask people to gamble responsibly.

For just £1 each week (£4.34 a month), a member will be issued with a unique five figure number which is then entered into our random electronic draw every Friday. Once the numbers have run, we contact the big winners by phone and then have to ensure all the cheques are sent out to the lucky lottery prize winners.

Carl, our Lottery Manager: “The best job of the week is calling up the first prize winner and letting them know that they’ve won £2,000! I’ve had tears and laughter with the winners, and I’ve also had the odd expletive from a couple of people who didn’t believe me!”

27.07.18Wirral Hospice’s top lottery prize is very nice at £2,000, but often the second prize is even bigger. In fact the £500 second prize, can ‘rollover’ up to a maximum of £10,000!

The explanation for this is that the random number generator can stop on any one of 100,000 numbers (00000 to 99999) for each prize. The machine keeps going until it finds an actual player’s number for the £2,000 and every other of the total of 34 prizes, except for the second prize.

If the number it falls on for the second prize is NOT any of our player’s numbers – it rolls over by £500 a week. It can be won at any multiple of £500 as it rolls but, at 20 weeks, the machine is set so that the 2nd prize must be won if it hasn’t been before then.

It is fantastic when anyone wins but it is especially gratifying when a long term member’s number comes up for one of the big prizes! Our most recent £10,000 winner was a lady from Rock Ferry who had been a member of our lottery, for all of its 20 years.

“That was particularly heart-warming” says Carl, “the lady was surprised, shocked and delighted, all at the same time. It was a great call to make”.

Carl’s team of dedicated lottery staff and volunteers consists of 2 x part-time  administrators, 2 x canvassers, 3 x collectors and a further small number of invaluable volunteers who, variously, sell single tickets, send out winning cheques, post reminder/new members’ letters and also do some community subscriptions collecting.

In its early days, the Wirral Hospice St John’s lottery was very much a ‘cash collection’ operation – people signed up and committed to paying £4.00 every four weeks. The legacy is that we continue to collect cash from a significant number of people around the Wirral. For many, especially older people, it is the only way they will play. A friendly face every four weeks is something they look forward to. Rachel, Ian and Tracy are our cheery collectors.

Also out and about in all weathers our canvassers, Frank and Nigel are knocking on doors! They are assigned an area and off they go. We know there is a lot of competition for people’s charity pound(s) these days. Despite the challenges of ‘cold -calling’, many people do sign-up on the doorstep or, in the small businesses we sometimes call on. It’s a great way for people to get involved and demonstrate the goodwill they feel towards the hospice.

The canvassers will tell you that 99% of people are very polite. Sometimes the strategy is to warm people up with a lottery branded leaflet to let them know that they’ll be getting a knock soon. Sometimes they’ll just knock and win people over immediately with a mix of charm and gentle persuasion. Wirral Hospice St John’s is certainly ‘worth it’ to them.

Nowadays, many people will make a card payment or commit to a standing order. As a nod towards the electronic age people can also sign up at our website. Some traditionalists still like to use their trusty cheque-books!

Our administrators, Kate and Laura, are busy every day (they share the hours) answering queries from new and existing players, while processing the quarterly, half yearly or annual payments of existing members. They also make sure all the weekly single ticket numbers are entered into the draw. When they’ve balanced the books, by Thursday pm, double-checked by Carl on a Friday morning, the draw is ready to roll!

Like every other part of the hospice, the lottery team is complemented by the commitment and support of our wonderful volunteers. There are up to 20 people who collect monies in their own communities and we are eternally grateful to them.

We reserve a special thanks to Margie Freeman, our dynamic fundraising volunteer . She’s a frequent visitor to the Carr Farm Garden Centre, as well as other places and events on our behalf, selling hundreds of single lottery tickets.

Very special mentions must also include, our most recently retired (after 20 years), former canvassing/collecting stalwart, Irene Howard, and our previous, ultra-efficient, administrator, Debbie Pierce (also with us for 19 years!).

wirral hospice go yellow 2017 12 pat lorna

Pat and Lorna (right) in one of many poses for our social media activities!

And last, but definitely not least, is hospice volunteer Lorna. Every Friday as she enters the fundraising office there is a  loud, welcoming cheer. She’s 92 years young and is still helping as a volunteer, to pack and post large numbers of lottery letters every week. If you’ve ever received a winners’ cheque in the last 14 years, chances are that Lorna packed it into the envelope with love to you.

Finally, this week’s lottery rollover is a fantastic £4,500! We came in mentioning the Spice Girls and Too Much, but I think we might all have one ear on that Luther Vandross hit, Never Too Much!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Owen – A Hospice Hero at the ripe old age of, 11 #abseiling #fundraising #charity #events #wirral #wirralhospice #hospicehero

owen 1We love it when supporters of Wirral Hospice St John’s take on a challenge to raise funds for us.

Over the years, many thousands have undertaken a whole host of wonderful (sometimes weird!) activities and events. They’ve completed charity walks, run marathons, endured triathlons, sat in baths of beans, swum for miles, shorn their locks, climbed mountains, jumped out of aeroplanes and much, much more. The funds they raise help us to continue to provide our specialist care services, free of charge, for the people of Wirral.

People embark on these pursuits for all sorts of reasons. It might be that they witness the services we provide for their family members or friends, at first hand. They may know people who are staff and volunteers here or, perhaps they read about the essential services we provide on information leaflets, or on social media, and they just want to help.

Whatever the reason, we really appreciate them – ONE AND ALL!

We’re always delighted to see young people taking part for us, sometimes joining their families on walks and a host of other activities.

So, when 11 year old Owen told his mum that he wanted to abseil down a tall building to raise money for the hospice, we were fascinated to find out, why? We wanted to know what motivates a young person to choose to raise money for our charity. Like any good story, a series of life events and circumstances combined to bring young Owen to his inspiring decision.

Owen was born in March 2007. His mum, Kate, had been pregnant at the same time as her good friend and neighbour, Karen. By happy coincidence they spent time on the maternity ward together, cementing their friendship. Karen’s little girl, Sadie, was born two days before Owen.

Karen and Kate remained strong friends in the following years and young Owen and Sadie, living close by in the same road, were like brother and sister. The birth of Owen’s brother Archie, two years later, added to this ‘extended family’ dynamic.

Life went on with its everyday joys and, with the children growing up and playing well together, all was well. That is, until four years later, Sadie’s mum Karen was diagnosed with lung cancer. Huge challenges lay ahead.

Intensive specialised treatment at Clatterbridge followed, enabling periods of relief, remission and respite. The love and support of her many friends, most significantly Kate’s family at that time, enabled Karen to live as full a life as possible with Sadie.

Karen was supported here at Wirral Hospice St John’s. She experienced life affirming activities within our Wellbeing Centre (then known as Day Therapy). She was later admitted to our inpatients ward, once her condition began causing the kind of pain and discomfort our specialist treatment is designed to stabilise.

In August 2016, after five years of living with her illness, Karen died.

In the times when her mum was ill, young Sadie had spent many hours with mum’s friend Kate, her partner Derek and sons Owen and Archie. As life continued, as it has to, Sadie’s Auntie Veronica (Ronnie) took on guardianship and now Sadie is settled with her family.

Karen’s friend Kate works here at the hospice as one of our lottery administrators. At the time of Karen’s illness, she was volunteering here working with the education team.  When the chance of a job in the lottery team came up she applied successfully and has been here ever since. She loves her role at the hospice and, inevitably, the work of the hospice features in many family discussions. Young Owen and Archie know of the activities people undertake to raise funds for us.

Owen came to the hospice one day during the school holidays with his mum (already a young ‘volunteer’ his mum had him stuffing some envelopes for the lottery team!). It was just after his school trip to The Conway Outdoor Arts and Education Centre in Anglesey (you know the kind of place: character-forming, outdoors, sailing, hiking and, particularly captivating for Owen, abseiling).

If you’ve seen our ‘Take on a Challenge display banner, sometimes on the roadway here, you may have noticed the silhouette on the side showing a person descending a steep precipice. On the way into the hospice Owen saw the banner and told Kate, “I can do that mum.”

With that small phrase, another ‘Hospice Hero’ was developing.

The ideal place for the task presented itself while the family were walking the Wirral Way near Moreton, Leasowe Lighthouse! A quick Google search confirmed that the lighthouse hosted regular abseiling events with qualified instructors and, even though just 11, Owen was ready to take on his first challenge for the hospice.

So, with fundraising plans in place and sponsorship forms drawn up, family, friends and neighbours rallied around to support Owen. Mum and dad encouraged their pals to dig deep. People were very happy to help raise and contribute funds for the hospice in memory of Karen.

The day arrived and alongside other people (all adults) Owen, safety equipment secured, climbed over the supporting rail and began his descent down 110 feet of lighthouse.

 

owen 2Five minutes later, after a couple of pauses to catch a breath and with mum Kate’s heart in her mouth, Owen completed his abseil challenge. Lots of whooping, cheering and hugging ensued.
Then it was time to count up the donations!

In this one challenge Owen had raised a fantastic £756 for the hospice. He’d also, demonstrated his support for Sadie, honoured the memory of Karen, made his mum, dad and younger brother swell with pride and, gained the respect of many more of his family, friends and neighbours.

 

Well done young Owen, everybody at Wirral Hospice St John’s is truly honoured by your efforts!

Author: Billy Howard

 

April is #MakeAWill Month – do you have an up-to-date Will?

Julia“Hello, I’m Julia Evans, one of Wirral Hospice St John’s Fundraising Managers. I have worked at the Hospice for 16 years and look after our supporters who wish to make donations to our charity. It’s such a special place and a real privilege to be part of somewhere that plays such a crucial caring role in our local community.”

Making a legally valid Will is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your loved ones are provided for when you are no longer around to look out for them.

Many people do not want to consider making a Will yet or think that they will get to it another time.

It can usually cost in the region of £150+ for a single Will and £250+ for a double Will. More complex estates, for example those involving several properties, savings accounts or business assets can take much longer to work on and can be more expensive.

Wills are legally-binding documents and although you can make wills online cheaply and even for free, it is advisable to get professional support because even small errors could cause big problems for the future.

Wirral Hospice St John’s has formed partnerships with a number of local solicitors who are all willing to draw up Wills at their own expense throughout April. Click here to see a list of this year’s participants.

However, the solicitors are requesting that individuals make a fair donation to the Hospice in return for this service, which is a suggested minimum donation of £80 for a single Will and £150 for a double Will.

Appointments need to be booked in advance with each of the participating solicitors. Slots will fill up very quickly; early booking is advised so as not to be disappointed!

In this country, if your wishes are not drawn up officially then legally your assets are at the mercy of the government, which could leave behind big problems for your loved ones that could take many years to sort out.

If you are a homeowner and have children it is even more important to have a Will in place. The law does not recognise unmarried couples either so if one of you dies suddenly without a Will, your partner could be left without anything.

Of course, you may already have a Will in place but if major changes have happened in your life, such as marriage, having children, divorce, death of a loved one, then it can make aspects or all of a current Will invalid.

Wirral Hospice St John’s provides specialist care and support to patients, their carers and families across Wirral. The Hospice’s care is free to our patients but costs more than £3.5million a year to run.

Legacies are a vital part of our fundraising and ensure that we can continue to be here to provide the best care for our patients and their loved ones at their time of most need.

It really varies what people have left us in their Wills and we are always so grateful for whatever people choose to donate to us however small they might think that gift is.

Please note that if you use one of the legal firms supporting our Make A Will Month there is absolutely no obligation at all to leave a gift in your Will to the Hospice in addition to making a donation towards the cost of the Will-writing service.

If you choose to do so though, it is at your discretion and the solicitor is not allowed to inform the Hospice or any other charity you might wish to support after your lifetime.

Please do not delay something as important as this; pick up the phone, make that appointment and know that you will be making a donation to your local Hospice in doing so.

To find out more information, please get in touch with Julia: 0151 343 0778 / juliae@wirralhospice.org or visit www.wirralhospice.org

Author: Julia Evans

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