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Volunteer Stories

Families, volunteers and service users tell us what St Mary's means to them:


A Community Neighbours story


A Community Neighbours story

Our Client

A lady who had been attending one of our Friendship and support groups was referred to the service.In her very late 80s she was managing life pretty well with the support of family and was still getting out and about.Her illnesses are the usual ones that come with age and she knew they could restrict her in the future.The thought was there in her mind though that her life was only going to get more isolated as she became frailer.She was concerned that she may not be able to get out on her mobility scooter to do shopping or see her friends.It was worse in the winter as it was much more hazardous.Her family are at work through the week and she lived a little way out of the town on a small estate. She felt having a visitor once a week would give her something to look forward to, help her with her memory and also give her some emotional support.She is a lovely lady who enjoys going out and mixing with others, it really is important to her, and she could see that becoming more difficult.A local person who used to pop in had become poorly himself so she was missing that company through the day.

Our Volunteer Community Neighbour

Our Volunteer moved to Cumbria from Cambridge 3 years ago and felt quite strange as she had given up her home, job and left behind her family and friends.She decided she wanted to do some volunteer work and after attending a U3A meeting picked up a leaflet on a new project called Community Neighbours.The volunteer had been a Doctors Receptionist for 11 years and had enjoyed it immensely, getting on well with people so becoming a Neighbour sounded right up her street.She signed up did the required training and check and was ready to start.Whilst waiting to be matched up to client she started volunteering her time serving meals on the In Patient Unit once a week, which she is still doing.

Coming together

It just so happened that the Volunteer Neighbour lived on the same estate as the lady referred so we went to see her to see if a visit each week would be of benefit.We made arrangements for the visits to start once a week.That soon turned into twice a week.On a Monday the Community Neighbour takes the lady to the friendship group which runs at the Hospice and they regularly have lunch before the session. Through attending the group the volunteer has also made new friends. On a Wednesday they go out maybe for shopping or a visit somewhere and lunch. Meeting up twice a week seems to work for both.The volunteer also rings through the week to make sure everything is ok and has often sorted out little jobs that pop up needing doing. The lady really looks forward to the visits and outings and it has in her own words “changed her life”. The two have become great friends and have a wonderful rapport.The volunteer loves to hear about her experiences which have spanned 90 years and has learned a lot.The lady has become part of the family and the volunteer values her opinions on all sorts of things. She is a dear friend.

Family views

It is always difficult accepting help from a stranger – what will the family think? Don’t want to make them feel inadequate or jealous.This lady took the brave step to do something for herself and it has been a real benefit to her.At first it was maybe a bit sticky but in time it has come to be accepted as a real bonus.Family are still there to help and do what they have always done.The relationship between the Community Neighbour and the lady is an addition.The family are really pleased there is someone else who takes a real interest in their mum, her life and her well-being.It has enriched her life and she has definitely been out of the house more.They feel it is important for their mum to have new friends and be able to see old friends.The arrangement works well and is appreciated by the family.

The Community Neighbours service has made a real difference to both the volunteer and the lady she visits.It has been sustained for over a year and they have become real friends.It has brought happiness and joy and has helped to keep the lady independent and less reliant on her family through the week.It has had a positive effect on her attitude and approach to the week ahead.


Award winning volunteer - Christine Taylor


Award winning volunteer - Christine Taylor

Christine Taylor has made a difference and a firm friend by volunteering with St Mary’s Hospice Community Neighbours service for over a year. Christine simply saw an advert in the Evening Mail for volunteers for St Mary’s Community Neighbours and got in touch. Whilst waiting to be matched with a client Christine generously donated her time to help out at St Mary’s Forget me Not Tea Room in Dalton. Over the last five years Christine has also donated her time and skills volunteering to The Samaritans as a listener. Christine had relatives and friends use the services of St Mary's and wanted to help.

When Community Neighbours started in her area Christine jumped at the chance to start visiting Dawn, helping to walk her dog, companionship and offering practical help.They have now become firm friends. Community Neighbours provides companionship and free practical help to individuals to help families living with life shortening conditions.

Since starting the new role she has enjoyed the feeling of helping to make a difference to someone's life and she believes that people should volunteer as it gives you such a rewarding feeling just to know that you have made a difference. It also gets you to meet new people and offers full training to help you in all situations.

Christine works part time at Lloyds Bank and also volunteers at the hospital, visiting for the RVS. Lloyds Bank encourages their employees to volunteer for local charities. It taps into their energy and passion whilst volunteering for an organisation in their community. This is called 'Day to make a Difference' and employees are given 7hrs of voluntary work/help per year to help their community which is a great success.

Christine has won a 'Changing Futures Award' a scheme operated to reward staff at Lloyds Bank and Halifax for their efforts. She is a Diamond Individual Winner for her volunteering. Christine was nominated by her friend and colleague Janette Hardman who also raises money for St Mary's. Employees were chosen from the whole of the country and Christine was the only winner in the North! The award consisted of a donation of £500 to her chosen charity, a trophy and some vouchers. Lloyds also match any monies raised for charity every year and for her volunteer work she has raised another £500 making a total of £1,000 to St Mary's Hospice. This £1000 will make a huge difference to St Mary's Hospice and enable patients their carers and families to have access to care comfort and support when they need it most. £1,000 could provide 120 delicious meals on St Mary's Inpatient Unit 53 Hrs of patient care or enable 11 patients to attend Day Care.

Anne Atkinson, Volunteer and Community Engagement Lead says:“I am absolutely delighted Christine’s contribution has been recognised, she deserves this award. We simply couldn’t continue our good work and excellent level of care and support without the dedicated time our volunteers give”.

If you have been inspired by the idea of volunteering and are interested in how your time and skills make a difference please get in touch. We have many different ways you can volunteer, please email or call us on 01229 580305. You can find out more online at

Carolyn's story


Carolyn's story

Carolyn Sykes has been a volunteer at St Mary's Hospice for ten years. She decided to volunteer after she retired from her job as an administrator for GP Training in the education department at Furness General Hospital when she was 59. She says: "I missed work, especially as my husband was still working at the time:"The reason I volunteered at the hospice was due to the former medical director Dr Helen Clayson, who I used to work at FGH. I bumped into her one day and she said that the hospice needed a receptionist at the Lesser King's Hall."

These days Carolyn, who lives in Barrow with her husband, is a receptionist at the hospice itself and also generously provides holiday cover and helps out at fundraising events, such as the Walk to Remember. Carolyn says: "I really enjoy it - the role involves answering the phone, taking messages, greeting visitors and helping out with admin tasks when necessary. I really look forward to my days here. One day is never the same as another and I like meeting people and like to feel useful and not 'past my sell by date'!"

“The Walk to Remember is one of my favourite events! I help out on the night by registering people for the walk. The atmosphere is brilliant, it’s great to feel part of it all. It’s wonderful to see the walk so well supported, and raise so much money for St Mary’s Hospice. My husband John has also been roped in to help with marshalling!

Like many Furness residents Carolyn's life has also been touched on a personal level by the work the hospice does. She says: "A friend of mine was a patient here a few years ago. I think nearly everyone you meet has some connection with the hospice." For those who feel nervous about taking on voluntary work, Carolyn urges them to try it out with a 'taster' session. She finishes: "Come along and find out more about what we do. We often have people who come and sit with us on reception to get an idea of what the role involves. Just come along and give it a try. Or volunteer for an event like the Walk To Remember – that’s a great introduction to helping out. You have fun while you volunteer and know that you are making a difference.”

Iain's story


Iain's story

IAIN Bain, 67, worked in the NHS in Furness as a domestic services manager for 30 years before volunteering. “Hence my lack of hair!” jokes Iain, who retired in 2000 when he was in his early 50s. Following his retirement and subsequent divorce, Iain found himself with time on his hands and so started doing voluntary work. First for Marie Curie Cancer Care and, when the local branch closed, for St Mary's Hospice in 2011. “When you retire at 53 you need to do something to keep active. I started off doing lottery collections twice a week and now I also do patient transport every Tuesday and Wednesday bringing patients to day care and also to our Positive Living Group and then taking them home again,” says Iain, who is originally from Middlesbrough, though these days he thinks of Furness as his home.

He says that working at the hospice has been a reminder not to take life for granted: “It gives you a greater perspective on life knowing what the patients are coping with. It is so easy to let day to day life get you down but doing this sort of work reminds you how unimportant most of our problems really are.”

Like many of St Mary's regular volunteers, Iain also helps put at many fundraising events such as our dog walk and the Holker Garden Festival. A keen amateur photographer, Iain is only too happy to put his skills to good use taking pictures at the hospice's many events. “But I also do other things – sell raffle tickets or man the gift stall, whatever's needed really.” In addition to this, hard-working Iain also finds time to help out at St Mary's Dalton shop every other Saturday. “I only have Sundays and Thursdays off,” he chortles.

But it is clear he loves every minute of what he does for St Mary's. He finishes: “I get enormous enjoyment from it and I would highly recommend it for people of all ages and walks of life. You get tons of support and it's a great environment to work in.”

Kate's Story


Kate's Story

Kate Lamont-Brown has been an invaluable volunteer at St Mary’s Hospice for a number of years. Covering many roles in that time including two years at our Orangery café,supporting two clients on our Community Neighbours scheme for the past 18 months, and serving meals on the Inpatient Unit since October 2014.

Kate explains “Some people might think what a strange thing to do, but I enjoy it! The hospice is a surprisingly peaceful place to work and has a lovely atmosphere. I love working with people and get so much out of it.”

Kate lost her husband five years ago and though retired and a busy grandmother explains that the last thing she would want to do is sit at home and mope. After a career working in London and latterly at a local pharmacy, she missed being with people so chose St Mary’s Hospice to benefit from her time because of its role in the heart of the community, and she liked the idea of helping to support and maintain that sense of community.

Kate says: “I got involved in Community Neighbours when I was volunteering at the café. It sounded interesting and perfectly combined my skills. I have two clients who are very different. You can be needed to help with all sorts of daily tasks from shopping, cleaning, gardening, dog walking, to accompanying a client on trips to the dentist and the like. You simply agree a regular day and time and take it from there. Just knowing that you make a difference to someone’s day and they rely on you – but not as a carer – makes it worthwhile.”

The Community neighbours scheme run by Anne Atkinson provides the group of volunteers or ‘neighbours’ with essential information,and there is all the support neighbours could need when they volunteer and are under "The Umbrella" of St Mary’s Hospice.

The Community neighbours meet on a regular basis at St Mary’s Hospice Orangery café for a catch up, to share advice and as a social get together.

Kate’s advice for anyone who wishes to volunteer is: “Come and give it a try, if you like people and helping, you will find it incredibly rewarding.”

To potential clients for Community Neighbours: “Get in touch with Anne Atkinson, as this scheme could definitely help you.”

If you are interested in finding out how you can become a Community neighbour, or if someone you know could benefit from our service please contact Anne Atkinson on (01229) 580 305.

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