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

liz

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: Bill Collins, 80 years young and a #wirralhospice #volunteer for more than 30 years #hospicehero #caring #fundraising #congratulations #wellbeing #patientcare #wirralcommunity

Bill Collins with CaroleDevoted Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteer, Mr Bill Collins, speaks from the heart, “I love the place, I love the people, I just love everything about it!”

Bill is a big part of hospice life. He’s volunteered at Wirral Hospice St John’s for over 30 years, and, nowadays, he adds massive value to our inpatients ward every Tuesday evening. He feels the special emotions of Christmas time too – he has given two or three hours of his time every Christmas and Boxing Day for all of those years.

On the Inpatient ward at the hospice, Bill will serve patients and their families with drinks, make sure people have fresh water and, whenever asked, will be available for a welcome chat. Our volunteers help to take some of the time pressures from the ward staff and, although Bill won’t take credit, we know it must be more than a little cheering and interesting for any patient, or family member, who spends a little time just chewing the fat with Bill.

He doesn’t say it but, it’s clear from our conversation, Bill is also a team player. He always wants to mention the hard work and dedication of fellow volunteers, especially his friend Margaret Halewood who has been volunteering with him on the ward for 25 years. He also credits volunteer receptionists Tina Hughes and Karen Ellis, who are part of the Inpatients ward Tuesday evening volunteer group.

When asked what he thinks of the hospice and the people he meets or works alongside, his passion shines through; “I think the world of them, I’m just so proud to be a part of it. All our services and all the different people, patients, families, volunteers and staff, we’re like a family”,

Bill Collins

Bill got involved with volunteering after his own Mum, Nell’s, progressive illness worsened and he spent time as the main carer for her and later when his Dad, Jack, also became ill. He’d taken early retirement from Shell at their Thornton research facility, now part of the University of Chester, where he’d been a laboratory steward, to fulfil his carer’s role.

After his Mum passed away, Bill was asked to consider volunteering at Wirral Hospice St John’s. He remembers applying and as soon as his ‘induction’ was completed he “loved it straight away.” Joyce Reeves (later Jones) was the first Matron of the hospice, serving between 1983 and 1998. He fondly recalls Matron Jones as “a wonderful woman.”

He chuckles heartily when he recounts the time the hospice obtained its first bed hoist. The nurses insisted that Bill was the ideal candidate to test the equipment. “I was like a puppet suspended in mid-air, while the nurses were enjoying the spectacle, laughing their heads off.” (It would be a ‘Health and Safety’ thing nowadays, so new volunteers shouldn’t worry!)

Bill keeps himself fit by swimming four times a week, doing plenty of walking and looking in on his ‘older’ neighbours in Bromborough. What is remarkable, and might be news to some of his friends around the hospice, is he had a triple heart by-pass in 2001! Typical of Bill, he plays it down! “I’ve just listened to the doctors, I watch what I eat and I’ve had no major problems!”

We’re really glad to hear it, Bill.

He enjoys his holidays and short breaks. Trips to North Wales are a pleasure he thoroughly enjoys but, most of all, Bill looks forward to his annual trip to the Algarve, with a gang of people who have become firm friends over the years. He stays in a little village called Sesmarias not far from the tranquil Praia de Coelha beach and a short drive into the bustling town of Albufeira. Lovely!

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Bill helps the hospice in other ways too. Each year he helps to run the St Barnabas church hall Christmas Fayre, in Bromborough, with his good friend, Betty Richards. The first year he did this he made £63 and now, following this year’s event, selling hospice Christmas cards and calendars, Bill has now raised over £25,000 since becoming a volunteer.

By writing a special poem in recent years for our annual Light up a Life switch-on service in the hospice gardens, Bill has also made an extra special contribution to the whole Wirral community.

This year’s poem  is so poignant and I ask Bill where he gets his inspiration. “I think of all the people I’ve met at the hospice down the years. I write for the families who have been touched by what we do, my mum and dad, and my sister, Barbara, and her family. Being involved as a volunteer has made me a better person.”

Here is Bill’s heartfelt poem:

Memories in Lights

You’re in my thoughts every single day,
Of things we did and things we’d say,

How we laughed, the times we cried,
Always together, side by side.

When we hugged and when we kissed,
The times we sat and reminisced.

It’s hard to take, now we’re apart
But you’re forever in my heart.

I see your face within the light,
And feel you’re here, with me, tonight.

Wonderful, Bill!

In a magnificent coincidence, this inspiring story is published on Bill’s 80th birthday (6th December, 2018).

Some, of his very many, hospice friends gathered to say, “Many Happy Returns, Bill, thank you so much for all that you do for Wirral Hospice St John’s.”

Bill Collins 80 Group

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Wendie Darlington – Happy to “do whatever’s needed” for Wirral Hospice St John’s for the past 31 years #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #care #loveandsupport #hospicecare

Wendie DWendie Darlington is a lady who gets things done! Her mum and dad were farmers and, growing up on a farm, there was no time for dallying. She volunteers in Wirral Hospice St John’s Inpatient Ward every Wednesday morning between 9 and 11am and the hospice is eternally grateful that she does.

In fact, Wendie’s been volunteering here for more than 30 years. In that time she’s got stuck into every voluntary job asked of her. She says, “As a volunteer I’m just here to help and I’ll do whatever’s needed, anything that gives time to the clinical staff and nurses to do their vital jobs.”

Nowadays it is making sure the patients’ morning coffees, teas and biscuits are delivered with a smile, and often a friendly chat. Water jugs are collected and refreshed, tout suite. Any other help the kitchen team requests is met with Wendie’s trademark ‘can do’ attitude.

In her early days at the hospice, Wendie engaged in a whole host of tasks; ironing, washing up, preparing snacks and teas, cleaning in the kitchen, on the ward and, in fact, whatever was needed.

Like all Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteers she is incredibly humble. She gives her volunteer partners the credit for the smooth running of all their ward duties. One week it is Ronnie (Veronica Wilkinson) and the next is Barbara Pearce. She praises them for their dedication and commitment to our patients and staff team, without any acknowledgement of her own personal contribution.

After their shift, Wendie really enjoys catching up with Ronnie and Barbara for a coffee and a chat in the hospice Hub Café. That’s where I meet her to have a cuppa and find out a bit more about what drives her to help make a difference.

The truth is, her story starts with family heartbreak. Her Dad, Wally Charlesworth, was the farmer at Grange Farm, Raby.  When he was diagnosed with throat cancer at the age of 55 it hit Wendie’s family hard. Her mum, Marjorie, who loved Wally deeply and hadn’t had a day apart from him since they were married in their early 20’s, could not acknowledge the illness, much less submit to the necessary changes it would bring to their daily lives.

Wendie, 29 at the time, stepped into the carer’s role. It is right, or should be, that such circumstances are described, and recognised, as ‘full-time’ work. However, life doesn’t work quite like that. It certainly didn’t 40 years ago! Wendie balanced caring for her Dad with managing the family haulage business with husband, John. While their children, twins Mandy and Sarah, then 11, and new baby, Phillipa, were all in need of their Mum’s time.

Wally was treated at the legendary ‘military huts’ on the site where the now famous Clatterbridge Cancer Centre now stands. His illness was managed by the hospital but his personal needs were taken care of by Wendie, with no other formal support, from home. Wirral Hospice St John’s had not been established.

Wendie’s dad eventually succumbed to his illness. Marjorie, her mum, never stopped grieving, but did live a long life, dedicated to her work, until the age of 87.

So around five years after her dad died, a friend and neighbour of Wendie was admitted to the relatively new, St John’s Hospice. After visiting she found it slightly difficult to explain to people that she actually felt happy for her friend. “She was so content, never in pain. At the hospice she was receiving the exact right care I wished I could have had for my Dad. I wanted to get involved straightaway”.

We’re really glad she did! Thirty years of voluntary service at the hospice followed.

But, that’s not the end of Wendie’s story. Not only does she volunteer here she also volunteers for our local children’s hospice, Claire House. Having experienced the specialist support at Wirral Hospice St John’s she was a massive enthusiast for younger people having such a service. Quite right!

After meeting with Claire’s parents, Christine and Bobby Cain, she determined to help them to raise funds to get started. (Wendie really does not go into any more detail with me about her role in getting Claire House established and I had to do some more personal research). In 2011 she was awarded an MBE for services to Charity. She has helped to raise many, many thousands of pounds.

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She won’t talk about it, so I don’t push her. All I will say is that when you read all of the press quotes at the time, she gives credit to the other volunteers, her husband and daughters who have helped with everything down the years.

Nowadays, as well as her volunteering work, Wendie meets any challenges, as you’d expect, head on! She is taking great joy in seeing her grandchildren, Jack 17, Molly 13, Maisie 10 and Sadie 7 growing up.

There is huge appreciation here for the hours and hours of time Wendie has dedicated to Wirral Hospice St Johns, a massive acknowledgement of her other charity work and we’ll look forward to seeing her every Wednesday, working, helping, chatting and smiling on our Inpatient Ward.

Wendie, all we can say honestly is, we really, really, appreciate you!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Geoff Shannon – adding a telescopic view of volunteering for Wirral Hospice St John’s #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #wirral #wellbeing

GeoffIf you get a chance, please spend a little bit of time with our Wellbeing Centre’s charismatic and engaging volunteer, Mr Geoff Shannon. He’s the kind of person, you just know, who will help you out if he can possibly do so.

He was recently spied across the hospice gardens ‘up-cycling’ (painting) some of Wellbeing Centre’s darker furniture into an eye-catching and bright, shabby chic! It was a nice day and a perfect opportunity to take a photo of one of Wirral Hospice St John’s ‘volunteers in action’.

A brief discussion allowed me to find out that Geoff was recently retired, was soon to be spending more time volunteering in the Wellbeing Centre and that he had actually previously been helping out for a year at the hospice’s main reception, every other Monday between 6pm and 9pm.

We asked Geoff’s permission to use the photo on Social Media. Some 3,000 people showed their love and support and, after also seeing several heartfelt comments, I knew we needed to find out some more about Mr Geoff Shannon so we had a chat over a cuppa in our Hub Café.

He began his career in 1970 at Plessey Telecommunications in Liverpool. From apprentice to fully qualified mechanical engineer over the next six years, Geoff was ready for pastures new. This was not only in his working life, in 1976 he married his sweetheart, Brenda. (These days Brenda also volunteers, at Arrowe Park Hospital).

A growing family, son Matthew and daughter Jenny, followed, and Geoff’s skills took him in many directions work-wise until he settled in Wirral. After spending 15 years at the world famous Champion Spark Plugs in Upton, Geoff bagged the mechanical engineer’s job of a lifetime.

Telescope Technologies, based at Twelve Quays in Wirral was originally set up to build a 2 meter optical telescope to search the cosmos from La Palma in the Canary Islands. The business was funded by Liverpool John Moores University and Canadian Entrepreneur, Dill Faulkes. Geoff was part of the team that built the telescope here, then took it apart again, and re-fitted it in place in La Palma. Nice Work, if you can get it!

The company’s ambition grew and Geoff subsequently worked in India, Australia, Hawaii and China, refitting and building telescopes, all making a significant contribution to our universal understanding of space. His final job before retiring was for the organisation, the National Oceanographic Centre, which owns our own Bidston Observatory in Wirral.

LUAL Geoff, Penny, AshleySo how does a space-age engineer find himself volunteering at Wirral Hospice St John’s? Well, after retirement, Geoff knew he wanted to give something back if he could. He was aware of Wirral Hospice St John’s in the same way many people are. He had a broad idea of what hospices do. He knew we ‘did good’. He knew we supported people with life-limiting illnesses.

So, just over a year ago and sitting in the Light Cinema in New Brighton waiting for a film (Geoff can’t remember which one – surely it was Blade Runner 2049?), the hospice’s ‘volunteering’ commercial was aired. He applied the next day!

Previously Geoff, and son Matthew, have raised funds for blood cancer charities. Matthew actually completed the New York Marathon and there is a reason for his choice of charity. For the past 8 years Geoff has been living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia. It is a condition where white blood cells (lymphocytes) are overproduced in bone marrow. It is serious, but if diagnosed early can be treated for many years through careful monitoring of people’s lifestyle and diet. Geoff is living well with very few  interruptions to his daily life.

He and Brenda dote on their Granddaughter, Lucia, (Matthew and his wife Faye’s daughter) and have a lot more time to spend with her since retirement. Next year they’re all looking forward to daughter Jenny’s wedding to her fiancé, John. Very soon, Geoff’s skills are going to come in handy, working with our Wellbeing Centre patients on some really interesting activities, (We’ll definitely be keeping  you posted!)

Before long, I expect we’ll be seeing our first ‘live’ robot volunteer, or maybe a De Lorean time machine or even our own hospice telescope!

Wirral Hospice St John’s Observatory? Has a nice ring about it.

Geoff, we’re all looking forward to seeing it, and you, very soon.

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

 

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