Gerard started volunteering in the Blythe House kitchen in 2014, before becoming a befriender in our Living Well service where he is able to provide practical and emotional support to patients, as well as have a jolly good chuckle with them too!

Gerard says: ‘When I started volunteering in the kitchen here, my wife thought it was absolutely hilarious! I have always helped with the housework at home, with cleaning and dusting, but I’ve never cooked!

‘After around three and a half years in the kitchen, I became a befriender which sees me welcoming patients to the Living Well service and helping them to settle in and feel comfortable. I help to provide practical and emotional support to patients, as well as serve refreshments, and just generally help to facilitate the smooth running of the service.

‘I have always believed in giving something back, especially to people who are going through difficult times; they need support and a place to share their concerns. Most of all they need to be listened to; very often people hear what you say but they don’t actually listen, so it’s very important to do so.

‘Around two years ago, I directed a staff and volunteer Christmas pantomime for patients. After being involved in the arts and drama for much of my life, it was great to feel that we were putting on such a fun and enjoyable show for them to enjoy. Wow, we had fun – it was hilarious! The following year, I read an abbreviated version of the Christmas Carol tale; complete with smoking jacket and glass of sherry!

‘I am now shadowing members of the spiritual care volunteer team, to learn more about its role in the organisation and how it supports patients. Spiritual care is not about religion or imposing your own beliefs, it’s about being there and above all, as I’ve said before: listening.

‘The whole volunteer team here at Blythe House are advocates of the organisation. It is a very happy to place to be and we have lots of fun. Volunteers are just ordinary people that care and want to help; to make a difference and to be a part of a team that is doing just that, is very fulfilling. I have made many wonderful friends here in the patients, staff and fellow volunteers; they are genuine friendships that mean something to me.’

Find out more about volunteering at Blythe House Hospicecare.

 

Audrey Bramah has been involved with volunteering at, and supporting, Blythe House since its inception in 1989.

The Chinley resident says: ‘When Blythe House first started, there was a small office near the church in Chapel-en-le-Frith. I couldn’t volunteer full-time then as I owned a restaurant but I would sell raffle tickets and host coffee mornings to help raise funds. I always felt this affiliation with the iconic idea of High Peak having its own hospice, and I knew that it was something that I wanted to be involved with.

‘I retired around the same time that the very first Blythe House charity shop was opening in Buxton and so I started to volunteer my time there, and soon after, the New Mills shop opened and I helped there too. I have also given my time at both the Chapel-en-le-Frith store and at the start of the very successful Whaley Bridge department store.

‘Later, when I entered the hospice building itself, and felt the warmth and compassion within their walls, I knew that I had found my niche. After a stint in the kitchen helping Jill [Blythe House’s cook], and another few months at the Whaley Bridge shop, I returned to the hospice itself as a Living Well Service volunteer.

‘Everybody who comes to Blythe House whether it’s for counselling, therapy or treatment, has a unique sensation and feeling of comfort and belonging. The staff here are all professional and dedicated to the well-being and emotional needs for every patient. The people who are involved here, including staff and volunteers, are a reflection on how special the hospice is; the welcome found here is like a big, embracing hug!’

Anni Bowden has volunteered in Blythe House Hospicecare shops since 2005, starting at the Chapel-en-le-Frith store on High Street, and now as one of the ‘Friday girls’ at Whaley Bridge’s Market Street department shop.

The Disley resident says: ‘I got involved with volunteering all those years ago alongside my two very good friends Sue Cooper and Jane Henry. We have all been affected by cancer, either through family or dear friends. Very sadly, Jane died in 2012; my brother also died from the dreadful disease, as well as other close friends. We wanted to show our support for Blythe House, and to demonstrate the love we have for our lost ones.

‘I saw Jane benefit from the services that Blythe House provides. Jane never attended the hospice directly, but the consultant doctor who was based there would go out to visit Jane in her home; she was also able to contact the hospice when she needed help or advice. This invaluable service enabled Jane to stay and die at home, just as she wished to.

Sue and Anni

‘My dear friend Sue and I look forward to our Friday mornings of volunteering. We have regular customers who pop in each week to see us and have a chat. We not only enjoy helping folk to buy different items, but we are also able to show our donators a good deal of gratitude for their generosity, which we find always encourages them to donate again. I feel that this shop acts as a charity twice-over – not only is it raising vital funds for the hospice, but it’s also supporting the local community.

‘We volunteers are drawn from a wide circle and so we all bring different talents and attributes to our sessions. Sue being a language teacher is able to ensure that our German, French and Welsh visitors are very welcome – our shop is a destination for many! I, being a retired occupational therapist, can offer support and often a bit of counselling to customers who are perhaps feeling a bit sad, poorly or lonely. We find that people confide in us because of the ethos of the hospice, and because of our life experiences and professions, we’re able to offer a little bit of support in their times of need. As well as customers, we volunteers also help and care for each other. A lot of volunteers use their time here as a haven; it provides such a special place for people to chat and offer support, in a non-judgmental way.

‘I mostly volunteer because I have such a satisfying morning knowing I am helping a great cause, but also because we have a good laugh together!’

Karan-Bradley-and-Alison-Trick

High Peak people with some spare time are being invited to find out more about volunteering with Blythe House Hospicecare.

There are lots of volunteering opportunities open to people aged 16 and over, including shop assistants, counsellors, drivers, caterers and fundraisers – and so many roles behind the scenes too.

Volunteer Karan Bradley (left, with patient, Alison) has given her time in a number of roles at Blythe House since 2010, during which she has supported the hospice’s creative arts programme, and the Whaley Bridge department store. Karan has recently become involved in the Community Volunteer Project, which sees her providing practical and emotional support to patients, family members and carers across the borough, in the comfort of their own homes.

The Hayfield resident says: ‘I think the wonderful thing about volunteering is that you’re just giving your time; you’re not doing anything particularly special. You’re listening, talking, making time and making a difference to people’s lives. Anyone can volunteer; you don’t have to have lots of experience or qualifications, you just have to be a compassionate person and be able to give a little or a lot of your time.

‘I can’t think of a better place than Blythe House to volunteer your time. It has such a wide base of opportunities, and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking to get back into work, you’re a student, recently retired – whatever your circumstances! You don’t need to be fearful; you’ll be made to feel so welcome and very much appreciated. I’d say don’t hesitate just go for it. If you’re anything like me, it might be the start of a very long and happy time in your life!’

Vicci Wild, Blythe House Hospice’s Community Volunteer Project Manager, added: ‘2019 sees the hospice celebrating 30 years of providing support to people across the High Peak. As we strive to continually meet the needs of our community, the project is initially funded by Macmillan and started last year, focusing very much on the Blythe House ethos of “Connecting our Community.” It is enabling us to support existing services, and provide volunteer support to patients in their own homes.’

One local family member who benefited from support commented: ‘I nearly cancelled the volunteer visit because I felt my house was in a mess, but the volunteer did not make me feel as though I was being judged, she helped me tidy up and get back on track.’

To find out more about volunteering opportunities:

  • Drop in to our informal information sessions at the hospice (Eccles Fold, SK23 9TJ) between 11am and 1pm on the second Monday of each month
  • Email: volunteering@blythehouse.co.uk
  • Call Vicci Wild or Julie Forrest on 01298 816990

Lifelong High Peak resident, Pat Eckersley got involved with volunteering at Blythe House’s department store in Whaley Bridge in 2010, after suffering from severe emotional and physical stress following a car accident. Pat’s sister, Lynne, gave her the encouragement she needed to walk through the door on her first day – and now she volunteers around five times per week!

Pat says: ‘Following a car crash, I was in a very vulnerable state and left my job. My sister Lynne volunteered for Blythe House and suggested I gave it a go, to help me build my confidence back up. On my first shift, I was a nervous wreck and was shaking uncontrollably, but the more I came, the more I realized how much I enjoyed myself.

‘I have always worked with people in my previous jobs, so being here gave me the opportunity to meet and chat to new and lovely people. I started out working in the old shop, now Finders Keepers in Whaley Bridge, and would undertake tasks including serving customers at the till, or sorting out donations. Lynne and I also used to PAT test all of the electrical goods that were donated.

‘When we came to the new shop, just a little bit further up Market Street, I also worked on the shop floor, but I found I enjoyed sorting through donations and so I started to volunteer more behind the scenes, as the resident “quality controller!” It’s my job to look through all of the clothes, bric-a-brac, furniture and other items that people donate, and get them ready to go out onto the shop floor to be sold. I furnished my whole new flat from this shop – including donating my old furniture, and swapping it for items that would be more appropriate for the room space.’

‘What I’d say to potential new volunteers is to give it a try! It might seem nerve-wracking at first but just give a go, and hopefully you’ll love it as much as I do. This role helps me, and I know that I’m helping other people in return – it’s a two way street. There’s also a very good team of volunteers here, we’re like family, and we support each other through the bad times and have a laugh through the good times too.’