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.

Wendie 2

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.

All we can say honestly is, we really appreciate you, Our Wendie!

Author: Billy Howard

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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.

We’re all looking forward to seeing it, and you, our Geoff.

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 prefer the 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 wanted 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 is our Kate. She works here at the hospice as one of our lottery administrators having been a hospice volunteer before that, working with the education team, at the time of Karen’s illness. 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, increasingly, 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 our Owen, everybody at Wirral Hospice St John’s is truly honoured by your efforts!

Author: Billy Howard

 

Meet Jamie-Leigh #fundraiser and why she loves working for @wirralhospice

wirral_hospice_jamie_leigh_burgessWhat is your role at Wirral Hospice St John’s?

My main role as Fundraising Officer is to organise fundraising events from start to finish to ensure that they are organised successfully. This includes talking to local companies who could possibly help fund events we are hosting. I also give help and guidance to supporters who are organising new and exciting events for our charity.

Why did you choose to work/volunteer at the Hospice?

I have a personal connection with Wirral Hospice as my mum was cared for here six years ago. Therefore I know what an amazing job the hospice does and the care they offer to not only the patients but also their families too.

My family and I then began organising our own events once a year to raise money for the hospice. A job vacancy came up a couple of years ago and due to having experience of fundraising I felt I would be well suited for the role.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

I would say the most rewarding part of the job is knowing that I am part of helping to raise money for such a fantastic cause. Due to personally seeing the work they do I know exactly what the money I am helping raise is going to, which gives me a great sense of achievement. I’m very proud to be a Wirral Hospice fundraiser.

What events do you have coming up?    

The next upcoming event we have planned is It’s a Knockout which is an inflatable obstacle course based on the hit 70s TV show with 27 teams competing throughout the day. This is on Sunday 9th July in Birkenhead Park at 10:30 am onwards with food/bar, face painting, tombola, children’s fair rides and much more. It’s going to be an amazing family-friendly day of mayhem!

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Another event we have planned is a Ladies Lunch at an exclusive venue on Wed 19 July. This daytime event offers a two course meal and wine experience with a guest speaker and is a lovely opportunity for our volunteers and supporters to put on a pretty frock and have a lovely afternoon out.

How can people get involved?

People are welcome to come along to It’s a Knockout to offer support and spectate – there’ll be so much to see and do.

We also welcome volunteers at fundraising events to help out. Another big way of helping out with our Hospice fundraising events is by spreading the word to help us get as much publicity as possible, this can be done really easily by sharing Wirral Hospice’s Facebook and Twitter posts on social media.

If anyone is interested in upcoming Hospice events they can purchase tickets from our Fundraising Office by popping in or calling 0151 343 0778. A full Fundraising Calendar is here on our website.

If anyone is interested in becoming a Wirral Hospice volunteer, please contact Carole Snow, Volunteer Services Manager on 0151 334 2778.

Jobs & Volunteering opportunities are listed on our Hospice website and promoted on social media channels as they arise.

 

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