Volunteers Mike and Chris Price wanted to support Phyllis Tuckwell after they saw the wonderful way in which the charity cared for Mike’s mum, when she spent her last days at the Hospice, in 1997.
“She was looked after so beautifully that we always said once we had more time we’d like to give something back,” says Chris, “and that’s how we started. I’ve been volunteering for Phyllis Tuckwell since 2007, and Mike started a few years after me, in 2011.”
“I started doing tin collections and helping out at various events,” says Mike, “but when I retired I wanted to do a bit more. So in 2011 I started doing a full day once a week, helping out in the Fundraising team. I do whatever I can to help them – clean the collection tins, put letters in envelopes, anything really. I’m good with spreadsheets, so they often get me creating all sorts of spreadsheets for golf days and tin collections, that sort of thing. They’re a great team, full of enthusiasm, and it’s a great opportunity to help out.”
Mike is also an ambassador for Phyllis Tuckwell. Our ambassadors really help to spread the word about what we do, visiting organisations who might be thinking of supporting us, and telling them, through formal presentations and informal chats, about the care that we offer and how we help local patients and their families. Our ambassadors also visit and thank organisations who have raised money for us, collecting cheques and telling them about some of the people we have cared for, so that they can really see how their money will make a difference.
“It’s nice for one of our ambassadors to go along so they can present the cheque to us, and then we say a bit about Phyllis Tuckwell and the care that we provide,” says Mike. “I’ve been to Christmas do’s, I’ve been to North Hants Golf Club, Justin Rose’s club, to collect a cheque from the club there who have supported us. The other side of it is going to organisations that are maybe thinking of supporting us and giving them an idea of what we do, the area we cover, the services we offer, and how we raise our money. It’s extremely interesting because you get a whole range of people, from Women’s Institute organisations to clubs, social clubs, golf clubs, many, many people want to help us. I can talk for England – I used to do a lot of presentations with work, and I think the Fundraising team thought this was the ideal opportunity for me! I’ve been ambassador for nearly four years now and I love it.”
Chris, who used to work as a school secretary before she retired, has helped out on our In-Patient Unit as a Ward Clerk since she first started volunteering. “When I started it was a very different role to the one it is now,” she says. “Back then the Hospice was still split into two wards, Juniper and Willow, and the ward clerks were in the middle running backwards and forwards between the two. It was hands-on: helping nurses make beds, answering phones, doing anything that needed doing – a helping hand for anybody that needed it. I loved it. Because I’d been a school secretary for 29 years, it was sort of like that, but dealing with patients and their families instead of children and their families. And feeling that you could make a difference to somebody, because families, especially those who had not been to a hospice before, found it very daunting. Just the word ‘hospice’ made people anxious. They didn’t realise the joy and happiness that this place can create. And I loved being part of that, to be able to reassure people and make them feel that even though it was a difficult time, we were there alongside them all the way. That’s what I found really rewarding and that’s why I’ve stayed as a ward clerk all these years.”
“I think the main reason that I enjoy volunteering for Phyllis Tuckwell, is feeling part of a community who are totally geared towards improving lives as much as possible for those who are in a difficult situation,” says Chris. “It’s important to me that it’s about supporting not just the person who’s ill, but also the family and the wider circle of people who sometimes get a bit forgotten. That, I feel, is an intrinsic part of Phyllis Tuckwell. As a volunteer you get a huge amount of reward – whatever you put in you get back at least ten times. It’s the most amazing place to be involved with and I actually feel very privileged to be part of the volunteer group here.”
“I feel honoured to be a volunteer, helping an organisation and spreading the word about what we do,” agrees Mike. “I think one of the most poignant things though, is that you’re not just helping the patient, you’re helping the whole family. We’ve got so many special memories about volunteering for Phyllis Tuckwell. Mine are mostly centred around the events which I’ve helped out at. To see the enthusiasm of the people who take part is really inspiring. Every Christmas we ask local schools to hold a Reindeer or Elf Run to raise money for us, and I’ve been involved with organising and helping at those since they started. They’re great fun. You have to dress up as something festive – we have a variety of outfits, a snowman, a reindeer, a Christmas tree, even a Christmas pudding! Anyone who knows me, knows that given the chance to dress up – I will! One of my abiding memories was at one of the first Reindeer Runs we ever did. I was dressed as Rudolph, and a little boy came over to me. He looked up at me and said ‘You’re not Rudolph!’, so I said ‘How do you know that?’, and he said ‘You’ve got a zip up the front,’ and walked off!”
“My special memories come from the time I’ve spent helping on the In-Patient Unit,” says Chris. “About six years ago, we had a gentleman who came in for respite care. He was getting married a couple of weeks later, but while he was here it became evident that he was actually deteriorating very quickly and he wasn’t going to get to the two weeks. So the decision was made at about ten o’clock one morning, to hold the wedding that day. It’s amazing what you can get done very quickly if you need to! We arranged for two registrars to come to the Hospice, one from Surrey and one from Hampshire. The bride already had her dress, and the gentleman was able to sit in his wheelchair, so we made it look festive and wedding-like. At seven o’clock that evening, the bride and groom’s families came along and we held the wedding in the chapel. The whole room was lit with tea lights and it was just magical. Afterwards we went to the Dove Lounge and had drinks, which I helped organise and pour out for everyone, and a cake, and it was absolutely joyful. I was so pleased to have been able to be there and be part of it. It was amazing, and the memories of that day will always stay with me.”
“If you’re thinking of volunteering for Phyllis Tuckwell, I would recommend it,” says Chris. “Come in to the Hospice reception or pick up the phone and ask to speak to the Voluntary Services team, and you’ll be invited in to have a tour of the Hospice and learn about the different roles there are. It’s easy and it’s so worth doing.”
“There are a whole range of activities that need volunteers,” adds Mike, “including gardening, catering, finance, and helping on reception. You don’t have to be in the Hospice or Beacon Centre either, you could be a driver helping to collect patients who have no other transport, and drive them to the Hospice or Beacon Centre for appointments or therapies, for example. There are people who sort foreign coins and old stamps for us, and volunteers who help in our shops. You can commit to a day a week, an afternoon a week, or a day every couple of weeks. A lot of ward clerks don’t do a shift every week, they do one every fortnight. It really just depends on what time people have and how they feel they can best use it for Phyllis Tuckwell. You can give as much or as little as you want, just helping out whenever you can. It’s a fabulous place to volunteer. There’s sadness, but there’s also a lot of joy and laughter too, and an atmosphere of hope.”
Everyday we need to raise over £25,000 to provide our services free of charge to our patients and their families. Please make a donation today to support the important work of Phyllis Tuckwell.