The Night’s Watch: Steve Roberts supports the hospice, both night and day #hospicehero #volunteering #patientcare #fundraising #community

Often you will turn around at Wirral Hospice St John’s and Steve Roberts, often for reasons not always immediately obvious, will be in your line of vision.

He’s an ‘Every-Person’. He might be jet-washing a patio area, fixing a light, cutting grass, checking the CCTV, touching up some paintwork, pat-testing the defibrillators, picking up or starting some laundry or just smiling, ready for a chat, when he picks up the internal or external post.

Employed as a ‘bank’ worker in our night ‘security’ team, he’s available (nearly) all hours of the night when called upon. However, throughout the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond, we’ve also seen him adding hours, which he’s volunteered for, during the day!

Steve is ‘Wirral’ through and through, starting school at Mersey Park in Tranmere and after leaving school he progressed to become a HGV fitter, then joining Unilever as a quality control technician. He then moved across to the security department where he spent 20 of his 39 happy years of service, latterly as security team leader.

In his home life he lives with partner, Jean, on the Eastham/Bromborough border! A keen DIY’er and ‘Man-Caver’ his name recently came up in dispatches, in a missive from the Cheshire Freemasons.

You see, Steve is an active freemason and his charitable works therein have not gone unnoticed. Down the years he’s been very active in both Cheshire and West Lancashire provinces. The Freemasons are renowned charitable givers across a range of charities and Steve also goes above and beyond in his duties.

As a visiting volunteer he helps to assess and administer financial assistance to freemasons and their families who, maybe through redundancy, ill health or even a death, become eligible for the special welfare awards the freemasons can deliver. Also when the government issued a call for citizens to apply to help with ‘community drop off’, Steve, stimulated by the calls to assist the community from within the Cheshire province, was quick to offer his services to the hospice..

Most recently, Steve was able to donate £120 (+ the 25% gift aid he was eligible to claim) to the hospice because a path he built, using 24 contemporary circular stepping stones to his ‘man-cave’ at home, didn’t work for him, after he‘d laid them.

His neighbour, seeing Steve start to take up his work, asked Steve if he could take them off his hands. So, for a discount off the retail price, at £5 per stone, Steve told his neighbour their joint endeavours would now benefit the hospice. CHEERS GENTLEMEN!

Steve’s since built the pathway he wanted – very nice indeed!

In normal times Steve also volunteers to help at various hospice events and special occasions. We see him at our annual Light up a Life lights switch on service* helping to marshal the crowds around the hospice gardens, also helping with the annual Christmas tree collection and he also lends a hand at our Summer ‘It’s a Knockout’ event.

He can’t speak highly enough of the care and compassion of the nurses he observes on his regular night shift. It is a quieter time than the rest of the day but, from time to time, Steve has been able to offer a visiting family member a drink, often tea but sometimes something a little stronger if they’re in any distress (and not driving).  

He loves the atmosphere at the hospice and has a very good rapport with the rest of the maintenance team too. He has a natural cheery disposition and when his night shift is over the last job he has to do before heading home is to feed the fish in our garden pond.

I imagine him spreading the feed, wishing the fish a great day then striding off ready for a well earned rest but also looking forward to the next bit of good work he can do.

Top Man, Steve.

Many Thanks for all you do!

Author: Billy Howard

*Sadly, due to the pandemic and the restrictions that have been put into place preventing crowds gathering, we have decided to cancel this year’s outdoor Light up a Life carol service. We will film a ‘Virtual Light up a Life service’ which will be on our website, this will be available to watch at 6pm on Sunday 6th December.

The Donation Station. Pre-loved goods now being gathered at our Hoylake Donation Centre #wirralhospice #charityshops #pre-loved #volunteers #care #hospicecare #thankyou

Paddy Thumbs UpIt’s 9.45am on a bright Wednesday morning in Market Street in Hoylake. The cafés and bars are preparing their morning coffee and brunch offers, setting out neat tables and chairs for their customers in the open air as well as spacing them safely indoors.

Some retailers are also open and taking the necessary precautions so that their customers can shop safely whilst observing the current coronavirus guidelines.

Wirral Hospice St John’s big new Hoylake Donation Centre (HDC), at the former site of the Coop store, adjacent to The Row in Hoylake, is already buzzing with staff and volunteers sifting through thousands of items of clothing, toys, household items, bags, and jewellery as well as all kinds of weird (occasionally) and wonderful bric-a-brac and accessories that piled in the week before.

From rags (gratefully accepted as we can get a donation for recycling them) to potential riches, witness Hayley in the designer sunglasses alongside other potentially lucrative branded clothing, shoes, handbags and eye-catching curios which will be sorted for the hospice ebay account. Hayley Sunglasses

It’s only the second week of operation but the HDC is in full swing. Everything that has been donated in the previous week has now been safely quarantined (has to be for at least 72 hours).

As the centre is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, between 10am and 3pm for donations, all of the previous week’s goodies are now being furiously sorted for re-distribution to the charity shops.

There’s 6,000 square feet of space with the floors clearly marked off ready for the influx of new donors who have booked a slot to drop off their goods at the rear of the donation centre!

At five minutes to ten the first car arrives with a boot (and back seat) full of boxes and bin bags ready to stack onto the loading bay at the rear of the store.

Our supporters have followed the instructions at www.wirralhospice.org/shopping to book a slot and then received an email with a map explaining how to get to the back of the store at their chosen time.

l-r Hayley and Jamie LeighPaddy (Patrick Smith, the hospice’s Retail Development Manager, thumbs up in the pic at the top of this story) is ready, alongside a further two fundraising staff (today it’s Hayley and Jamie-Leigh, pictured below, although a number of others have helped the week before and are ready to step in for the foreseeable future), to greet the hospice supporters, direct them to safely lay down their pre-loved items and then, if they’re eligible, advise them on how to sign-up to Gift Aid to allow the hospice to claim a further 25% on their donated items.

Now, the the safe movement and storage begins and, let me tell you, it’s a virtual marathon!

A steady stream of donors start to unload and, after labelling the bags and boxes which are gift-aided, the team start to make the journey, laden with bags, into the space inside and then back outside to receive/carry more and more goods.

By 11am the team have already clocked up over 4,000 steps each and their biceps and quadriceps are burning. A great workout, just another 4 or 5 hours to go!

Kerry SortingMeanwhile, Kerry  (in green here), Sue (in hospice blue below) and Helen (too shy for photo), who normally volunteer at our New Brighton shop, are in the ‘space beyond storage’, opening bin bags and boxes, at socially distanced tables, while organizing everything ready for transport to our shops at Moreton, Liscard, Birkenhead and New Brighton which have recently re-opened.Sue Sorting

In time our other charity shops, at Claughton, Heswall and West Kirby, will also open and the stock that is now flooding into the Hoylake Donation Centre will help to fill up their rails, shelves and displays.​​​​​​​

Having to close the shops these past several months due to the coronavirus has inevitably hit revenues hard. All of the donations and the hard work of staff and volunteers gives us all the greatest belief that we will, as soon as allowed, rebuild the charity shops back to making their massive financial contribution to the specialist care and support services for which the hospice is held in such high regard.

Quite Rightly!

There is now a limited service for people wanting to donate larger items, sofas, three-piece suites, beds, wardrobes and other furniture items. Time and space is currently at a premium for this and potential donors are being asked to send photos, with fire labels where appropriate, to fundraising@wirralhospice.org to join the waiting list for pick up.

There are also opportunities for people who live in or close to Hoylake, and who might like to volunteer to help with sorting goods, to join the effort. Any people who may have some time to spare, can use the same email address to register their interest. 

The ‘V’ to ‘V’ of Valiant Volunteers at Wirral Hospice St John’s #volunteers #volunteering #VolunteersWeek #hospiceheroes #wirralhospice #caring #thankyou

Volunteers Week’ is an annual celebration of the massive contribution volunteers make to the multitude of organisations doing good works in all of our communities.

It’s run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) which champions the voluntary sector and volunteering Wendie 2across the UK.

Our Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteers add so much to the life of the hospice but, as with many organisations, the coronavirus crisis has meant that the overwhelming majority of ours, some 500 of them, have been asked to stay at home until conditions prevail which will allow them to return to us.

To say we miss them is an understatement. We miss them like crazy!

Norma 2In normal times they are simply ‘here’ for us, at the hospice and in our Wirral Community. They’re part of the hospice family, They are, very often in fact, the ‘face’ of the hospice.

  • At main, outpatients and fundraising receptions they get people to where they want to go physically or by telephone. You’ll always be greeted with a friendly ‘hello, how can I help you’.
  • Inpatient ward general duties volunteers bring patients their drinks and often stop for a friendly chat or even help patients to share their stories. In our Wellbeing Centre volunteers will also make patients a nice drink, engage them in enriching and fun activities, facilitate group chats and be ‘on hand’ to alert our nursing staff if there’s a clinical need.liz 1
  • At fundraising events there are always volunteers to direct our supporters to help them sign in, to buy cakes and refreshments and to sell raffle and tombola tickets and the like.
  • Out in the community there are some 150 volunteers who work shifts in our charity shops or at the hospice gift shop (in the run up to Christmas) to advise customers, sort out donated stock, dress windows and serve. Others help our retail team by assessing and preparing those donated items which are potentially more valuable for ebay.
  • Bill Collins with CaroleOur volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, counting all the pennies that come in from collection boxes sited all over Wirral, helping in accounts, tending to the hospice gardens, collecting lottery cash and even holding their own community fundraising gatherings.

Every single one of them is an inspiration and they choose to volunteer for many and varied reasons. Some young people like to bolster their CV and gain work experience, others, often older, retired and greatly experienced, have lived in Wirral for years and know the work of the hospice and many have also had their own personal experience of the hospice’s caring services, through spouses, family and friends.

What is also true is that they’ve always got their hands in their pockets. Not in the ‘standing around’ sense, but in their generous support of the hospice with their own money. They’re incredible people.Ann D 2

From time to time we’ve shared stories from some of our vigorous, vibrant, valuable, versatile and (often) vivacious volunteers and we’ve linked you to some of them again to recall all of their great work.

If you click on their name below it will take you to their story so, in no particular order,

Wendie Darlington: Will do whatever’s needed for Wirral Hospice St John’s

Norma Edwards: Radiating positive energy in our Wellbeing Centre

Liz MunroOur gently effective fundraising volunteer, ‘par excellence’

Bill Collins: 30+ years an inpatients ward volunteer and regular ‘Light up a Life’ poet 

Ann Dermody: At the heart of the community at our Liscard charity shop

Susan Seed: Hospice friend, supporter and volunteer, since day one!

Niamh McEvoy: A young volunteer who ‘goes for it’ in our Moreton charity shop

Geoff ShannonA charismatic former telescope engineer in our Wellbeing Centre

Marianne Sunter: Retired chemistry teacher who reacts brilliantly to any situation

Colin MiddlebroughA volunteer we can all count on

Sue AWe hope you enjoy their stories as much as we value their, and all of our other vivid volunteers, precious time and excellent company.

Here’s a list of all the ‘V‘ words you can put in front of the word ‘volunteer’ to reinforce their priceless contributions.Colin

Valiant – showing courage and determination

Valuable – extremely useful and important, worth a great deal

Valorous – great courage in the face of danger

Va Va Voom – exciting, vigorous and attractive

Marianne 1

Varied – a number of different types or elements

Vaunted – praised or boasted about

Vaulting – prepared to jump over obstacles

Venerable – accorded a great deal of respect especially because of age, wisdom or character

Veracious – speaking or representing the truth

Versatile – able to adapt or be adapted to many functions or activities

Versed – experienced or skilled in: Knowledgeable about

Vivid – intensely bright, lively and vigorous

Niamh 3

Vigilant – keeping careful watch for dangers or difficulties

Vibrant – full of energy and life

VIP’s – very important people

Vigorous – strong, healthy and full of life

Geoff

Vim – Energy and enthusiasm

Virtuous – having or showing high moral standards

Vital – absolutely necessary, essential

Vivacious – attractively lively and animated

Vocal – expressing opinions freely (or loudly)

Vroom – the idea of speed or acceleration

It’s safe to say, Wirral Hospice St John’s VIP volunteers bring a veracious, vital value and variety, to all that we do. Verily!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Colin Middlebrough – a volunteer we can all count on! #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #wirral #fundraising

ColinIf you could choose anyone to count out all the coins (and often notes) that are donated to Wirral Hospice St John’s via collection boxes distributed all around Wirral, in shops, bars, hairdressers, chemists and a host of other businesses, as well as at bag-packing and other events, you would do well if you could find a former bank auditor!

Happily, we have that very man. His name is Colin Middlebrough.

He’s been volunteering here for 7 years now and every Wednesday, with a cheery ‘”Good Morning”, he’ll greet people in finance, fundraising and other volunteers around the place, with a ready quip or funny anecdote, before bunkering down in a quiet room to start counting.

In the week of his 80th birthday – 80? No Way! – Colin shared some of his life story with us.Colin 80]

The legend is that, in 1940, Fred and Bessie Middlebrough welcomed baby Colin into the world during an air raid over Liverpool. Born at Mill Road Maternity Hospital (where there was a tragic bombing in 1941), he spent his formative years in Armley Road, off Priory Road in Anfield, not far from the home of his beloved reds, Liverpool FC.

By age 15 Colin was nurturing his lifelong talent, playing the drums! He’d be bashing the skins and cymbals in the terraced house he was brought up in and he chuckles when he recalls, “I think the old lady next door was deaf so it never bothered her, although I think I may have driven the other neighbours mad. They used to throw bricks through the window…… so they could hear me better!”

His 1958 skiffle group, The All Blacks (they were admirers of the New Zealand rugby team), were regulars at the original Cavern Club, winning a competition to be a support act at The Liverpool Empire Theatre for a week.

Colin subsequently worked on the same bill and met many famous artists and groups, The Beatles, Rory Storm, Cliff Richard, Jim Dale of ‘Carry On’ film fame, Ike and Tina Turner’s Ikettes, Queen, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats and many more.

(You could say Colin is our MBE – Mersey Beat Expert!)Colin KC5

Here’s Colin pictured with The Kansas City Five (they were six actually) in Liverpool in 1961. Colin is 3rd from the left. Just behind him is Tommy Hughes (we told his wife, Angela’s, story here)  Bruce McCaskill (in the photo 2nd from right) was Eric Clapton’s road manager and also managed Scottish R&B combo the Average White Band. 

The gigging was going well but by 1969 he was also looking for something steady. He joined Midland Bank (now HSBC) as a cashier in the days when it was compulsory dark suits, ties and a white shirt. He continued to gig with his covers band, The Jaywalkers, while working his way up at the bank to become a Senior Auditor.

How he also found time for refereeing amateur football matches is a wonder and Colin tells a great story of the time he was to referee the Cup Final between Guinness Exports and Littlewood’s Stores in the Liverpool Business Houses Football League in the 1960’s. As representatives of the opposing teams approached him separately before the game, it is only speculation what he could have earned in Guinness, or a year’s worth of new outfits. Of course, Colin refereed with the ultimate integrity.

As life went there was also time for volunteering. He helped, as treasurer between 1989 and 1994, to establish the Merseyside entertainers’ charity, The Merseycats, (find Colin in the middle of Row 19 at this link) which organises events to raise funds for children’s charities in the region.

Through entertainment he became involved with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundationand recalls a gig at The Liverpool Empire in the early 90’s in aid of the Roy Castle charity which led to him meeting the late great famous actor, Sir John Mills.

Colin got chatting to Sir John at the after-show get together at the Adelphi Hotel (as you do!). After Lady Mills retired for the evening Sir John asked Colin if he’d like to take a nightcap with him. Assuming there would be a call to the waiter, Colin was surprised, and delighted, when Sir John undid the head of his walking cane to allow him to pour out a ‘tipple’ of brandy, which he kept in the shaft of his cane! Class!

So, seven years ago, Colin remembers meeting our volunteer services manager, Carole, at a function and the subject of counting all the pennies came up. He’s been here ever since  and has counted tens of thousands of pounds for Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Colin MarioHe’s also been involved in loads of fundraising himself and last year, with a group of his good friends from The Wheatsheaf pub in Raby Mere, he led a ‘Movemberesque’ effort which raised around £2,000 for the hospice. The story made the Wirral Globe and, good sport that he is, he also posed with a spoof moustache in the photograph here.

Grandad Colin has three grandsons, Fionn Padraig, who lives in Ireland, and who Skype’s Colin regularly, and Logan and Aaron who live closer to home, in Wirral.

Colin is literally our man for all seasons and we’re delighted to have him on the team.

Happy 80th, Sir, and many, many happy returns!

Author: Billy Howard

“It’s Not What You Think!” Mr Bob Taylor gives us a patient’s view of Wirral Hospice St John’s #inpatients #wirralhospice #wellbeing #goodqualitycare #caring #thankyou

It's Not What You ThinkMr Bob Taylor of Eastham, who spent a little bit of time on Wirral Hospice St John’s Inpatient ward, wanted to share his thoughts about spending time at the hospice. In his writing he wanted to emphasise ‘IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK’ throughout, and these are his words below. (He also didn’t want his photo taken, so we’ve taken some of the ward teams – starting with volunteers, Sue and Barbara, ready to take patients their morning coffee/tea).

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

“My name is Bob Taylor. I have lung cancer and I would like to share my thoughts about Wirral Hospice St John’s

When you first hear the word ‘hospice’ a lot of people, myself included, think it’s the end. How wrong we are. It’s so far from it!

This is my second visit. I was admitted this time to get some pain control and to rest a little, so that I could get to a level where I can go back home.

This time I’ve been here for a couple of weeks. I really wasn’t feeling at all well when I came in, but now I know I’ll be going home again in a day or two.

Once again the hospice has done an excellent job.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINKINWYT 3

I could write lots of positive things about the different members of staff and volunteers who attend to my symptoms and comforts. The best way I can think of is that they give all of us patients FIVE STAR care.

It’s top quality care by top quality people.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

INWYT 2On my first visit to the hospice, as I became a little better, a lady* came and asked me what I wanted for breakfast.

Being a Smart Alec, I asked for bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, beans and toast. She apologised because, just then, there was no black pudding! I couldn’t believe it when a few minutes later a full breakfast turned up at my bedside.

It was so fresh, the butter hadn’t fully melted into my hot toast! She then asked me if I wanted her to order some black pudding for the next day. (Nothing was too much for her).

Every meal at the hospice is cooked on-site to an excellent standard in, what I found out, is a FIVE STAR food standards authority, kitchen. (Pictured left, l-r, Margie* (cook), Toni (volunteer), Elaine (catering supervisor) and Mary (volunteer))

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

If in the future you are offered a place at Wirral Hospice St John’s for pain management, and/or symptom control and for the right type of rest, do not give it a second thought, GIVE IT A GO!”

Thank You, Mr Bob Taylor, for the kind words. Thank you also to wife, Yvonne, with all their family and friends who are also helping the hospice to raise funds, from personal donations to taking part in supporter and hospice events, they are an inspiration to everyone at Wirral Hospice St John’s.

(Bob sadly passed away in early 2020 and we have maintained this piece with the kind permission of Yvonne). RIP Bob.

Author: Billy Howard (with major contribution by Bob Taylor)

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