Jon Davey has supported Blythe House as a community volunteer since 2019. The Buxton resident explains more about his important role during the COVID-19 pandemic…

‘I have been supporting local patients and elderly, isolated and vulnerable members of the community since the beginning of the first lockdown back in March 2020. Some tasks I regularly undertake include visiting local residents for a socially-distanced chat (when restrictions allowed) to give their partners and carers a bit of free time; provided weekly telephone support to different male patients; and transported two people to important medical appointments at The Christie hospital, and for blood tests in New Mills.

‘I have also walked Stanley, the dog of someone who was shielding, once or twice a week. He was a real character – the first walk we took, I thought he might enjoy himself, but it became clear after just a couple of forays that he had his own very clear ideas on where he wanted to go: anywhere that did not involve too much effort. Any attempt on my part to encourage things in a particular direction was firmly not complied with – he was so determined not to move sometimes that his lead could slip over his head as he dug his feet in…so in the end I gave up and let him take the lead – all for a quiet life!

‘The thing I have enjoyed most about volunteering during COVID-19 has been being useful, and meeting people and getting to know them. The support is so very much appreciated by individuals and their carers. Having a laugh with people is very much part of this experience for me.

‘If you want to really feel part of the community and feel useful, this role really is the thing for you.’

Find out more about becoming a community volunteer.

Whilst setting up a small gardening business, Cate Lines decided to donate some spare time to helping others by becoming a Blythe House community volunteer in autumn 2019.

She’s supported the hospice volunteer team during the COVID-19 pandemic, and appeared on BBC East Midlands Today in late 2020 to chat about her experience. Here, the Little Hayfield resident explains more:

‘I was inspired to apply for a role as a community volunteer by a friend and fellow volunteer who told me to give it a go. My first volunteer job was in the December 2019. I wrapped up some Christmas presents for a patient, and kept the patient company whilst her husband got on with some jobs outside.

‘During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve be able to help the local community in quite a few different ways, such as shopping, prescription collecting and delivering, and transporting patients to hospital appointments. It has been enjoyable driving to places that you wouldn’t normally go; up long country lanes to deliver shopping, and chatting to very grateful recipients.

‘One particular job was to collect some ‘hearts’ from a butchers shop, for some dogs. I braced myself to be greeted by some huge great muscly hounds, only to find a couple of fluffy lap dogs! I did learn an interesting fact from the butcher, that cooked hearts taste remarkably like roast beef!

‘It has been good to be able to give something back to society in a caring capacity. Not only has the role improved my confidence, it has enabled me to meet new people and learn new skills. The people I meet are always so appreciative of the help I can give them, which makes me realise how important the work is. I would recommend to anyone who’s thinking about volunteering to give it a go, it’s good to push yourself and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll get back.’

Find out more about volunteering for Blythe House and Helen’s Trust.

Catherine Madge started volunteering at Blythe House’s Whaley Bridge department store in 2014, after her father received care and support from the hospice during the final months of his life. She’s learnt cash handling and visual merchandising skills, and says the camaraderie with fellow volunteers and customers is one of her favourite things about giving her time to support the shop.

The Whaley Bridge resident explains more: ‘I was mainly working at the till, providing general support with displays, both upstairs and downstairs. Initially I worked two mornings a week, then when I began working in the week full-time, I started Saturday afternoon shifts, then filling in for holidays. I also did a stint at a stall in Buxton. I enjoyed bag packs and other fundraising through work with my previous employer.

‘I decided to support the hospice as a retail volunteer to give something back, after my dad, Gordon was helped so much at the end of his life, especially consultations with Dr Sarah Parnacott [consultant in palliative medicine]. This was before the Hospice at Home service, and I realise how much of a difference it would have made to his last days. My stepdad, David also had lots of help from Blythe House too recently, in his final months.

‘When I am not working full-time, I help when I can, and when I was furloughed last year, I contacted Blythe House when the shop was about to re-open, to help out where I could until more permanent volunteers were able to return.

‘My favourite things about volunteering for the shop are the camaraderie that everyone has, all working for the same thing, meeting regular customers and answering queries, you never know what you will be asked!

‘I learnt the till and cash handling (before the pandemic came along), along with developing visual merchandise skills, and, yes really, doing a little dance when something you have displayed sells! There are always little treasures to be found amongst the donations and I have researched some vintage craft items such as knitting and sewing patterns to help them sell in the shop and on eBay.

‘Blythe House takes care of its volunteers, the managers are terrific, and you always know you are making such a difference to this charity, and always giving something back to your community. The volunteers take care of each other, keeping in touch when they can, and you meet so many there is usually time for a quick chat and catch up.

‘When you can find something for a customer, a little treasure, or it is something they have been looking for, for ages, and can’t find elsewhere, it is a real joy. I remember a customer had left some family photos in a book he had donated. Fortunately, I was able to locate the book and return the photos – he was really chuffed! Christmas is always a special time; lots of decorations and presents are bought, and far too many chocolatey things around!

‘Something I really enjoy is talking with people, helping them out, saying hello to regular customers and volunteers. So many people said they were really pleased when the shop was able to re-open again last year, let’s hope it’s not too long before it opens again in 2021!

‘I would say when thinking about volunteering for Blythe House, you actually get a lot more back than you put in; a real feeling of doing something for your community, whatever it is, and I just wish I had more time now, but hopefully that will come. In the meantime, I donate what I can, and enjoy keeping in touch with this hub of the community.

‘Finally, Blythe House really helped me get back into work and back into the community after going through bereavement and, given the chance, I would love to do more.’

Find out more about how you could volunteer your time to support your local hospice.

After the announcement about a second national lockdown on 31.10.2020, some quotes or sentences in Pauline’s story below may seem incorrect/ unsuitable, however please note that Pauline’s story was written in September 2020, after she had returned to her volunteering role at our Buxton shop following the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Pauline O’Brien has volunteered her time at Blythe House’s Buxton shop for around seven years, after finding out about opportunities from her friend and fellow volunteer, Brenda Edge.

Pauline said: ‘I was out one Friday night with Brenda and some of our other friends, and Brenda said that the shop was in need of an extra pair of hands. I had just retired and I thought, “I could do that!” I signed up as a volunteer and have been here ever since.

‘I am a bit of a busy bee, and help out during my shifts with whatever wants doing. I will sort donations, hang and display items on the shop floor, serve customers at the till, or do any other odd jobs that want doing. Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, I also supported the hospice’s monthly coffee mornings and would serve refreshments and generally meet and mingle with visitors.

‘Post-COVID, coming back to volunteering at the shop, I feel safe and comfortable. A woman actually said to me earlier today that she was impressed with how well organised and set out the shop is, to help our customers feel safe whilst shopping here.

‘To prospective volunteers, I would say, come and have a go! Blythe House, and the hospice shop specifically, is such a friendly place to work and everyone is so kind. I love the women that I work with and I feel like I’m doing my bit to support a local charity.

‘We of course follow all the latest government guidelines including wearing PPE and washing or sanitising our hands at regular intervals, so you can rest assured that you will be warmly welcomed and feel safe and confident whilst you volunteer here.’

Find out more about volunteering opportunities at Blythe House.

After the announcement about a second national lockdown on 31.10.2020, some quotes or sentences in Judy’s story below may seem incorrect/ unsuitable,  however please note that Judy’s story was written in September 2020, after she had returned to her volunteering role at our Buxton shop following the first COVID-19 lockdown. 

Judy Gill started to volunteer at our Buxton charity shop around four years ago, after accessing support from the hospice following her partner, Jeff’s lung cancer diagnosis. The Hospice at Home team provided care to Jeff before he sadly died, and Judy was also able to seek support from our counselling and bereavement team.

Judy, who’s from Buxton, said: ‘I first had dealings with Blythe House when Jeff had lung cancer; their help was invaluable. After he died, I had a few counselling sessions and attended a bereavement class, which was just what I needed at that time. It was a great help in coming to terms with my loss.

‘When I retired, I decided I would like to return their kindness by volunteering at the Buxton charity shop.  I contacted Marie, the manager, and soon began my training.  I found her very helpful and easy to work with.  As I didn’t really want to work with the public after doing it for much of my working life, I elected to work on sorting the numerous donations.  It is a mammoth task but almost like Christmas, waiting to see what could be in the bags donated! I always work on a Wednesday afternoon so work with the same great group of volunteers each week. We have plenty of laughs! My neighbour, Alison is a fellow volunteer and we both work together sorting clothing.

‘Being over 70 and at risk, when the shop was preparing to open after COVID restrictions were lifted, I felt quite unsure about returning safely to do my job.  However, I need not have worried.  I called in to see the safety precautions that had been put in place, and felt quite happy to return safely.  A number of volunteers had done a wonderful job in re-arranging the shop to a safe standard.  I really enjoy working at the Buxton shop so had missed it during lockdown. It is great to be back!

‘I would encourage anyone who thinks they might like to find out more about becoming a Blythe House retail volunteer, to get in touch for an informal chat. The atmosphere here is easy going and relaxed – and I work with lovely people. I would definitely recommend it to any prospective volunteers who want to give something back to their local community.’

Find out more about volunteering roles across our local community.

Alison King has supported the hospice in several roles since she began volunteering at our Buxton shop back in January 2019.

The Buxton resident volunteers her time at the shop on Eagle Parade every week, as well as posting regular photos on Blythe House’s Instagram page. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Alison was a key volunteer in the community, helping to deliver support leaflets across her hometown, and supporting her neighbours who were shielding.

Alison said: ‘I have always volunteered my time in schools since my children were little, but as they’ve got older, my focus shifted and I spoke to my neighbour and fellow volunteer, Judy, to find out more about opportunities at the hospice.

‘It is great to support a local cause and we are such a good team here at the shop – there is great camaraderie. Pre-COVID, we would go out to celebrate birthdays and Christmases together.

‘The shop was shut for many weeks during the lockdown, so I was able to support the hospice by delivering Here to Help leaflets in my local area. These leaflets provided details of how the hospice could help people who were elderly, vulnerable or isolated during the pandemic, including with deliveries of shopping and medical supplies, amongst other things.

‘During the height of the lockdown, with my husband and three children all working and schooling at home, it was great to get out on my daily exercise with a purpose, and I’d be able to stop and have socially-distanced chats with people about Blythe House. I also helped with elderly neighbours including picking up essential items from the shops, as they didn’t leave their homes for many weeks.

‘Marie, the Buxton shop manager, set up a What’s App group for all shop volunteers as a way of keeping us informed, but it quickly became a way of keeping everybody’s spirits up and sharing silly jokes. We all missed being in the shops and that definitely helped.

‘When the shop reopened post-COVID, I was slightly apprehensive about returning to my volunteering role, but I needn’t have been worried. As soon as I came in, I saw that everything is so well organised; the hospice has done everything it can to ensure both volunteers and customers feel as safe as possible in the shop.

‘I work mainly in the cellar, sorting through donations and preparing them for sale. I also sometimes work on the shop floor including organising and sorting things, and serving customers. I love my role looking through items that have been kindly donated, because you honestly never know what you’re going to find! Only the other day, we found a crinoline: an item that goes underneath a dress or skirt to hold it out, and give it a fuller effect. We laughed and said we could all do with wearing one, as it would definitely help us with social distancing! That is the great thing about charity shops, if you go in with a specific item in mind, you should always ask, because nine times out of ten, there will probably be one in the back.

‘The pandemic has given people time and space to think about what’s important to them, and volunteering definitely makes me feel happy. Unfortunately but understandably, several volunteers have decided not to return to their roles following lockdown, for their own personal and health reasons, so we need some new faces here in Buxton and in the other hospice shops.

‘The great thing about volunteering here is that it’s so friendly and flexible – if something doesn’t suit you, you can change to work around your own commitments. More and more people will need support from Blythe House in the future, and it’s so great to be able to play my part in helping local patients and families.’

Follow Blythe House on Instagram to see some of Alison’s posts.

Find out more about volunteering at Blythe House.

With the charity shops being closed, treasure hunting had to come to a stop, at least for a while! I did however have the opportunity to deal with some bequests and look through some old stock as well as getting some pre-lockdown treasures to look at.

A strange old coin?

Looking through a box of donated old coins is the sort of thing I found myself doing in lockdown. One coin caught my eye amongst the piles of pre-decimalisation pennies. About the size of a 1p coin it isn’t actually a coin at all, but a token.

I had come across this sort of token before from time to time, and recognised it as an old ‘pub token’ probably from the mid-19th century. Previous experience has shown that these are quite collectable.

Tokens of this sort were issued by pubs as a sort of currency for pub games or to buy drinks. This one was local as it had the pub name “Dog and Partridge” and even the address 24 Oldham Road, Manchester and the name of the publican (T. Lomas) stamped on the coin. The pub appears to be long gone now.

I wasn’t sure what this was worth but put it up for auction on eBay. I was surprised that it attracted 5 bids and sold for £36!

Telescope from Nelsons era

Another item donated at the Whaley Bridge Shop was an old battered telescope.

Mostly made of wood but with brass fittingS, this looked like an interesting find. Unfortunately, it had no makers’ marks or owners’ marks anywhere which made it difficult to research. Luckily I found a UK specialist website that had a lot of information about old telescopes and from this site I was able to find enough information to determine that the telescope was probably an old British Naval telescope probably from around 1790. This was of course the era of Nelson’s early career.

I was surprised to find that the telescope still worked after a fashion, producing a small but reasonably clear image in the eyepiece.

This sort of telescope can be quite valuable but the lack of any makers’ marks, owners’ marks or other provenance made this item less collectable and harder to sell. It was placed on eBay as an auction item and I was quite pleased that it fetched £85.

Subsequently I discovered that the high bidder was the same person who was responsible for the collector’s website I had used to research the telescope. When he bid on the item, he had no idea I was using his site for research! I now have another contact who can provide expert advice on future telescope finds!

Visit our eBay site.

Andrew Foreshew-Cain became a Blythe House Community Volunteer in summer 2018, and since then, has provided practical support and companionship to hospice patients and their families, including respite care and gardening.

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew has continued his vital role in the community, as one of 48 volunteers providing essential care and support to local patients, as well as those who are vulnerable, lonely or isolated.

Here, Andrew explains more about his volunteering role…

‘I became a Community Volunteer back in 2018; I was looking for a way to give back to the local community, and everyone spoke so highly of Blythe House and the work it does that it seemed to be the natural place to go. I had been baking for the monthly coffee mornings for a little while beforehand, which I very much enjoyed, but decided that a less personally fattening way forward was perhaps wise!

‘I trained up to be a Community Volunteers, working with the ever cheerful Julie and Vicci [Forrest and Wild, Community Volunteer programme staff team]. The training was thorough and interesting and answered a lot of questions and concerns. I then spent the summer sitting with a patient whilst his wife went out for a break each week. It was so easy and enjoyable and his wife was so appreciative.

‘I also helped out with a few gardening jobs – in one place in a garden already so immaculately kept that I was worried I would mess it up, but the owner clearly felt that the usual standards had slipped. It made my own attempts at gardening at home look rather shoddy, and inspired me to try a little harder!

‘I work in Oxford in term time during the week, so was away when COVID-19 kicked off. I came back at the end of March and responded to an email from the team. I have a couple of regular things to do each week – shopping for person in Whaley Bridge and checking in on an older resident in Chapel. Both are simple and rewarding to do and seem to be really appreciated.

‘I’ve also done a bit of running around doing deliveries and so on, as and when asked. But I find you have to be quick off the mark – a need is posted and people are right on it and support offered. I decided to limit what I offered to once or twice a week to give others the chance to do something so I do not sit on the computer looking of things to do.

‘I am always happy to respond to a direct request, which has happened a few times and the team are great in understanding when it’s not possible. I am back to work off furlough now and spending a lot of time taking part in online meetings, so sometimes it isn’t always possible to help. But that is always understood and any help offered seems to be appreciated.

‘The thing I have enjoyed most about volunteering during lockdown is the simple reward of being able to do something, when it feels at the moment that we can’t do a lot in the face of the challenge that is facing society. I’m not a doctor, I am not a nurse, I am not a teacher or a worker in a shop or in a front line service delivery role – it would be too easy to sit at home and feel useless but volunteering for Blythe House means I can do a little bit to make life easier for people who are having a hard time and help support the community around me.

‘There’s huge kindness around, and the stress of these weeks seems to have released people to be consciously kinder in response to the stress. Simple things like people saying thank you and smiling as we dance around each other as we pass in the street, trying not to get too close. The staff at the entrance to shops helping make the delays of waiting to enter more bearable and the wonderful way organisations like Blythe House but also the local smaller shops and companies have responded in imaginative ways to offer deliveries and make life a little easier. Of course there are grumpy people around, and certainly at the start some of us didn’t behave very well but that seems to have faded and we’ve rediscovered something in this period that I hope we keep: how local community is important and local shops and organisations are the backbone of the country.

‘Right at the start of lockdown, I was asked to go shopping for one person, and went to the butcher to get some meat for them, including some ham that was clearly stated on the list. When I got home I put the bags down and popped out to get something else on the list only to discover on my return that my cat had discovered the ham and made off with it. I had to go and get a replacement from the local supermarket as the butchers had shut. I was not asked to do that person’s shopping again!

‘I’ve also had some lovely conversations with one particular person – he’s well into his 80’s and has lived in Chapel for years and knows loads of history. His house is ancient, and he pointed out that the path outside the house that I was standing was built on a culvert that had been a stream until the 1950’s – and that the people in his house had grown watercress in it for themselves and to sell locally. You’d never know to look at the street and houses now that it had been such a different place then. He has also told me more about Morris dancing and thinks I have the legs for it!

‘I’m also involved with a group called Tea and Chat in Chapel, for older local residents. In more normal times we meet monthly for a chat and a chance to catch up with each other; old friends reconnecting and having a laugh. We’ve set up a Zoom group and meet virtually every Friday, which is a lot of fun but we are very much looking forward to life beginning to return to normal and being able to see each other again and share a cup of tea face to face.

‘I’m a Church of England minster – so I am also hosting prayers every evening on Zoom and a short service online on a Sunday morning. Both are meant to be for students and staff from my college but mostly seem to be “attended” by Chapel locals. It’s a bit odd, but we’re also able to reach people who haven’t been able to get to Church for years but can now pray and feel part of a community of friends. There’s a lesson there for us as we come out of lockdown that we mustn’t lose.

‘Overall, people have been very kind and appreciative, even for the smallest things that take so little out of my day but make a big difference to the lives of the people I am seeing. It is rewarding – and humbling. As always, I am pleased to be part of the Blythe House team; it is a good place to be.’

Former nurse Liz Burns became a Blythe House Community Volunteer in 2018, supporting patients in the comfort of their own homes with light tasks and companionship. Here, Liz has taken the time to write a blog about the volunteer work she’s been undertaking during the coronavirus pandemic, including supporting hospice patients and members of our local community…

Since the coronavirus outbreak and the adaptation of our roles to support people in the wider community, I am currently supporting three people – usually on different days, but occasionally two visits can occur on the same day.

Liz outside The Christie

An account of one such day – My first job was to take a patient to The Christie Hospital. After checking my bag and cleaning the contact areas of the car, I drove to the address, putting on my gloves and mask before arrival. We have been getting to know each other over the previous few weeks and during the drive to The Christie we chatted – the car is quite an intimate space and not being in direct eye contact can sometimes be less intimidating. The conversation flowed – we talked about ‘this and that’ – gardening, how life has changed since the pandemic, shopping, thoughts about illness, treatments and practicalities, the wonderful Spring that we had been having… I dropped the patient off at the entrance and went to the car park where I was amongst many other drivers in their cars waiting for their person – quite a community really… On this occasion, the appointment was short and we were soon on our return journey.

After saying goodbye, I had a short break before wiping down the car again and set off for the next assignment. This person who lives alone has been ‘shielding’ due to an existing illness that would make them particularly susceptible to Covid-19. This has caused a practical issue that their young dog was not able to get his usual walks. A great job for a dog lover and he is an absolute delight who just loves to be out – as they say it is a ‘Win-Win’ for all three of us! On our return as I am cleaning his harness and lead it was time to chat with the person in the garden – hopefully bringing the everyday in and sharing our love of dogs has helped to make what is a pretty isolated time just a little less so.

Blythe House community volunteer, Jon Davey first found out about the hospice in 2009, after his prostate cancer diagnosis. The Buxton resident regularly attended our monthly prostate cancer support group and continues to come along to the weekly mindfulness meditation sessions.

Jon, who’s a keen long distance walker, explained: ‘I am aware of what’s going on at Blythe House with visiting so regularly, and so I found out about the community volunteer programme. Volunteering was really just something I fancied doing; I have always volunteered my time in my local community and I recognised the fact that I missed doing this. I like being with people and talking to them. The opportunity to join the community volunteer programme came up, and I recognised that I needed this fulfilment so I signed up.

‘I found the volunteer training really useful; it refreshed skills I have already, and taught me new ones. Since June 2019, I have been supporting a patient in Chapel-en-le-Frith, providing companionship, and carer respite breaks so that the patient’s wife can pop out to run errands, go shopping or meet friends. We talk often about walking; he recalls memories of the war; and we discuss things like decorating and electricals, as well as our families and children.

‘On three occasions, I’ve been on hand to help with immediate need for carer breaks, where partners or carers have needed to leave quickly, so I’ve been able to step in to sit with the patient for a few hours.

‘I really like meeting new people, and I feel like I’ve been of use by helping out and feel very much a part of my local community. I have a real sense of fulfilment in my community volunteer role, and would definitely recommend it to other people who might have some spare time to help others in our area.’

Find out more about volunteering with us.