Patrons: Bill Beaumont & Mark Lawrenson Reg Charity No: 512186

Hardeep Singh – befriender

Retired social worker Hardeep Singh can’t stand the thought of staying indoors and watching TV all day. Instead, she takes great pride in doing what she can to support her community, from assisting the elderly, to volunteering as a befriender for house-bound people facing life-shortening illnesses.  

Befriender Hardeep SinghThe 65-year-old, from Longridge, has been volunteering with the St Catherine’s Hospice family support department since a former colleague from Royal Preston Hospital joined the charity to develop the team 17 years ago.

She says: “I’ve befriended quite a lot of people over the years – sometimes it’s short term and others are more long term, and I can have up to three people to visit each week.

“People ask me why I do it, and it’s because I really enjoy it. You become friends with the people you’re matched with. You share their happy times as well as their distress because of what they’re going through.

“As a social worker, I was used to working with people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and terminal illnesses. You do get attached and you feel something for these people, but you have to be aware of the situation.

“Everyone is affected by death and grief, but you have to be mindful of looking after yourself as well as others, and that’s what the training is for.

“The training provided by St Catherine’s is quite intense because you have to think about everyone’s different needs, but the charity’s family support team are absolutely brilliant and are always on hand to offer advice. They’re very helpful and supportive, and make you feel very appreciated.”

Hardeep, a grandmother of four, became a befriender in 2012 after she retired, and has been with current service-user, 70-year-old George Fisher who is living with progressive supranuclear palsy, for more than a year.

“I spend time with George while his wife goes out, and he’s so pleasant and very jolly,” she says. “Befriending is all about getting to know a person’s interests without invading their privacy.

“George likes to play Connect 4 and he is very good. He’s quite naughty because he knows I always miss the diagonals because I go for the straights; he knows that’s my weakness so he catches me out, and he always has a cheeky smile on his face when he wins!

“It also gives his wife Sandra, who is his carer, time to herself. It’s like a lifeline for her too and she looks forward to my visits just as much as he does.”

Hardeep, who lost her husband 20 years ago to cancer, has always recognised the importance of putting others first.

She explains: “I’m a Sikh by religion and one of the principles of Sikhism is to serve the community and be helpful, so that gives me satisfaction, knowing that I’m doing something which is valued by my faith.

“I enjoy being involved in the community – I escort elderly people to the temple or events whenever I can, and giving something back like that can be very rewarding.

“I still have time for myself, for my family and to work on my garden, but I also like to keep myself busy and use my time for a worthy cause – it’s much better than sitting at home all day watching TV.

“I feel proud of myself; you’ve got to keep positive and do what you can.”

– If you are interested in giving your time as a volunteer befriender, or if you could benefit from the support of the service, email familysupport@stcatherines.co.uk or call 01772 629171.

Randel Bolton – cafe assistant

Using his spare time to volunteer in a bustling café which supports the work of St Catherine’s Hospice, Randel Bolton is not only giving something back to the charity which cared for his beloved wife; he’s also enjoying gaining new skills and meeting new people in the process.  

Mill cafe assistant volunteer Randel Bolton (1)Randel, who worked in furniture design, manufacturing and retail for 40 years before retirement, contributes two days a week as a café assistant in the popular Mill in the grounds of St Catherine’s Park, from which proceeds are used to help fund the specialised end-of-life care provided by the hospice.

He came into contact with St Catherine’s after his late wife Angela received care at home from the charity’s Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), who provide assessment, treatment and support to people with life-shortening illnesses out in the community.

Randel said: “We had a huge amount of help from the CNS team after Angela’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I could ring them up at any time of day for advice – they were absolutely invaluable in what was a very difficult and strange situation we found ourselves in.”

Angela sadly died just over two months after she was diagnosed, in May 2014, and Randel has since made a donation to St Catherine’s for her birthday in March and at Christmas time, in her memory.

“A friend said that I should pay a visit to The Mill café,” he added. “So this March after I’d made my donation at the hospice, I called in for a tea and a pastry, and I just thought the atmosphere was really friendly and welcoming; I liked the ambience of the place.

“I saw notices for volunteers and it just really interested me. I’m a keen cook and food is my hobby, so it seemed like the ideal place for me.

“It’s great because it gives me a couple of days a week which fulfils an opportunity to meet people and make new friends, and I’m really starting to feel like I’m making a meaningful contribution. I can work the coffee machine and take customers’ orders on the iPads, so I’m constantly learning new skills too – and it’s very different from my previous line of work.”

Randel, from Hoghton, also said that volunteering is perfect for him as it affords him the flexibility to continue going on holiday with friends, and fit his role around other interests such as photography, crown green bowling, cooking and entertaining, and caring for his new rescue dog.

He’s also enjoyed lending a hand at weekends with The Mill Outside – the outside catering arm of the café – at the Royal Lancashire Show this summer, and the charity’s own Bark in the Park fundraiser in Preston at the start of October.

“It’s nice knowing that I’m making a small contribution to the charity, and it’s become part of my weekly schedule,” he said. “I look forward to coming to The Mill. I live alone so it’s good to get out of the house, and it’s a great feeling being able to help the hospice. It gives me a sense of purpose.

“It’s just another interest which helps to fill my time in retirement. I think anyone would find volunteering a worthwhile way to spend a few hours a week; I would really recommend it.”

To find out more about volunteering at The Mill, email themill@stcatherinespark.co.uk, call 01772 695277 , or click here.

Stephen Evans and Barry Wilkinson – market traders

Regulars to Preston’s bustling market are used to bagging a bargain from fun-loving duo Stephen Evans and Barry Wilkinson – but they may not be aware of the serious sentiment behind the pair’s playful banter.  

Volunteers Stephen Evans and Barry Wilkinson on the St Catherine’s Hospice stall at Preston MarketThe friends volunteer for St Catherine’s Hospice, and set up the stall at Preston Market around 12 months ago.

They get up at the crack of dawn and always have a smile on their face and a joke to share – and are poised to bring in an incredible £20,000 in their first year as market traders for the charity.

They became involved with the Lostock Hall hospice after their loved ones were diagnosed with cancer, and now get a great sense of pride out of giving something back – whilst having a laugh in the process!

Barry, from Penwortham, said: “My wife was being cared for at home by St Catherine’s before she died, and I donated all of her clothes afterwards.

“I started volunteering in the donation centre two years ago, just to get me out of the house so that I had something to do, and avoid getting stuck in a rut. Then I had the idea to set up the market stall – I’ve worked on Chorley market selling shoes and I just thought it would be worth trying for St Catherine’s.

“Stephen soon joined me and suggested we sell more than just clothes, so we also have electricals, handbags, accessories and sometimes bric-a-brac now.

“We work well as a team and one couldn’t do the job without the other. We can sell anything – you’d be surprised!”

The pair are up at 5am on Tuesdays and Thursdays ready to start at the market at 6am, and by lunch time they’ve usually sold all of their stock.

Barry is used to hard work, having worked as a sheet metal worker, a driver, and pub landlord.

“I just really enjoy it,” he said. “We have our regulars and we also sell to other traders. I get a real buzz out of it; it’s such a good atmosphere.”

Stephen previously volunteered at the St Catherine’s furniture store in Preston, before relocating to the donation centre. He now gives as much time as he is able, sorting through stock in the onsite donation centre and working the market stall with Barry.

“I really enjoy the banter,” he said. “We sell cardigans for 50p and jeans for a pound, and closer to dinner time we’ll offer them at three for a pound and they just fly off the shelves. People are queuing up for the St Catherine’s stall – it’s great!”

Stephen wanted to give something back to the charity after his dad died of cancer.

“I just wanted to do something to help,” he explained. “The staff do such amazing work at St Catherine’s. It makes me really proud to volunteer for such a worthy cause.”

Samantha Jones, the charity’s donation centre manager, said: “Stephen and Barry are really inspirational and we’re all so impressed by their ‘get up and go’ attitude!

“It’s volunteers like Stephen and Barry who make St Catherine’s so special. They’ve found something they love doing, and have made it their own. They’re very talented at what they do, and we’re so lucky to have them on board at St Catherine’s.

“Volunteering brings people a great sense of satisfaction and can boost people’s confidence as they learn new skills and gain new experiences, as well as make new friends like Stephen and Barry.

“There are plenty of roles to choose from for anyone interested in giving their time to the cause, from working in our charity shops, on reception, helping out in the inpatient unit, in our kitchen, at The Mill café, as drivers, and much more.

“We’re always on the lookout for enthusiastic people to join our dedicated team of 700 fantastic volunteers, so I’d urge anyone interested in getting involved to get in touch and find out more about the benefits of volunteering.”

Joe and Josie Mann – reception and gift shop

Joe and Josie Mann, from Lostock Hall, have enjoyed giving their time and carrying out numerous tasks for the charity since it opened in 1985, from working in the kitchens, laundry rooms and reception, to making tea and even hat stands.  

Long service volunteers Joe and Josie Mann 1Josie, 85, a retired junior school teacher, said: “We always say we get more out of volunteering than we put in.

“We’ve done it for so long partly because of the variety of jobs we’ve had, and partly because of the lovely company and the lovely atmosphere.

“We’ve made so many friends amongst the staff, other volunteers, visitors and patients.

Josie and Joe decided to start helping out at the Lostock Hall hospice soon after it opened, after seeing a notice appealing for volunteers.

Josie says: “Joe worked outside quite a bit and did all sorts of odd jobs, including making props for the drama group, The Charity Players, who used to perform at the Charter Theatre.

“He came home once with a bird box which he ended up making into a cuckoo clock! Another job he came home with was to make hat stands for the charity’s bridal shop in Preston.

“He’s also made wooden novelty gifts for the Christmas fayre.”

She added: “I did kitchen work and spent time working in the laundry – I even remember pegging washing out one evening in the yard where the caretaker’s cottage used to be.”

Joe, also 85, who used to work for Leyland Motors, is on reception now and Josie looks after the gift shop in reception on Thursday evenings. She also attends a craft group and makes greetings cards, with the proceeds going to St Catherine’s.

“Joe and I also help with the ‘mail-order’ Christmas cards and I enter names in the Book of Remembrance which is in the chapel,” she added. “I used to hand-write the Light Up A Life tributes but that became a full time job, so the computer has taken over that one.

“Things have changed dramatically since we started – the number of extensions has been quite amazing, and some of the jobs we used to do are no longer needed. Things have progressed, but the patients still get the loving care they always have, and I’m sure that will never change.”

Jamie Ward – cafe assistant

Confidence, improved people skills, and job satisfaction are just some of the things Jamie Ward gets out of volunteering at The Mill cafe.  

Jamie Ward at The Mill 3Jamie has been tending to the tables of visitors at The Mill for three months now thanks to an initiative between St Catherine’s, The Mill and Lancashire charity Brothers of Charity.

The Brothers of Charity Services provides a range of services to people with learning disabilities – supporting their individuality, choice, rights and aspirations. This includes supporting people in employment and voluntary work, irrespective of their previous experience or supported needs.

The Mill, and the kitchens of St Catherine’s welcomes a total of four volunteers from the Brothers of Charity service including Jamie, who is already seeing the difference working there is having on his self-esteem, evident when he spoke to us last week.

“When I was told the hospice wanted to do a story about me and take my photo, I was a little bit nervous but mostly excited,” said Jamie, who lives with Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism which can trigger anxiety and nervousness, particularly in social situations.

“I think if you’d have asked me a few months back to speak to me for the website, I would have been a lot more nervous, and I would have been in my shell and not opened up as much.

“But working here helps build up my confidence – I can overcome people barriers that have held me back in the past.

“Sometimes, I might not be as confident, and I might not see things other people do, but working here helps build my CV – it gives me more experience in dealing with people and providing good quality customer service.”

Not only is Jamie reaping the rewards of voluntary work, so is St Catherine’s and The Mill! The team at The Mill depends on volunteers who give their time as café assistants and volunteer advisors to be able to provide the services they do.

As well as being a welcoming café open to everyone, The Mill is there to help those affected by serious illness and bereavement in a more relaxed, informal environment away from the hospice.

Jamie acknowledged one of the many perks is giving people a lift when they need it most.

“I like making visitors to The Mill feel good and helping them change their day,” he continued.

“I think it’s important to be engaging and really friendly, and offer good customer service because that means so much to some people.

“Somebody came into the café once who wasn’t having a great day, so I made sure I made her feel welcome and spoke to her. Apparently that cheered her up, so she left a message on the Facebook page saying I’d made her day, and that was really nice to hear.”

Jamie is well aware of the important role The Mill plays in delivering the services of St Catherine’s Hospice, from raising funds to reaching out to more people.

“I’ve realised it’s not just a café, it’s also more about bringing a sense of normality for people,” he said. “I know that it’s on the same site as the hospice and The Mill is really connected to St Catherine’s with what they do.”

The Mill is always on the look-out for volunteers to join Jamie and the team – if you’re interested click here to find out more.

Derek and Ann Francis – Donation Centre

Derek and Ann Francis pay weekly visits to an auction house, where they sell off quirky and valuable charity donations for St Catherine’s.

Auction couple Derek and Ann Francis (2)From war medals to comic books, and jewellery to crockery – anything which passes through the hospice’s onsite donation centre in Lostock Hall which the couple thinks could make a fair amount, gets taken to Warren and Wignall Auctioneers in Leyland.

They’ve been helping out at St Catherine’s and offering their keen sense of what sells for 14 years, and are celebrating this week after making more than £1,000 in just one session.

“It’s all good fun and keeps us out of mischief,” Derek, a retired policeman, said. “We’ve developed quite a knack for it. We watch TV shows to pick up tips – but Ann’s a better valuer than I am!”

The couple, from Hutton, began collecting items for auction when Ann was the manageress of the hospice’s charity shop in Ashton, and noticed of all the varied and unusual items people donated to the cause.

“It started with some diving gear and underwater photography equipment,” Derek explained. “We didn’t think it would sell in the shop, so I sold it to a diving centre for £50.

“There was also a box of plates which were no good and were going to be thrown out, so we sold those to the diving centre too – they used them in Preston Delph for divers practicing; items for them to find in the water during training.

“It got me thinking that everything is worth something to someone, so we started taking things which weren’t selling in the shops to the auction house. Even if we only get a pound or so, it’s better than it being thrown into the skip.”

Derek and Ann’s sterling efforts help raise around £15,000 each year for St Catherine’s, and more recently, they’ve been achieving even greater sales as they strived to beat their personal target of £1,000 in a week.

An art deco table lamp, a 1792 violin, and a Trafalgar commemorative sauce boat were among the items which finally resulted in an impressive £1,200 haul this month.

Grandfather-of-three Derek said: “We’re constantly on the lookout for things now. We have a nose for it. And the St Catherine’s charity shop managers ring us when they have something of interest, so we’ll go to pick it up.

“We’re here, there and everywhere, but we really enjoy it. It’s great fun.

“We spend our nights going through items, especially jewellery – we run a magnet over them and anything which sticks obviously isn’t gold or silver.

“On Thursdays, we come to the hospice’s donation centre to see what else has been put aside for us, and we sort through it all and load the car to take it all to auction. It certainly keeps us busy, and it’s so different from what we did for work, so it’s a fun hobby for us.”

Ann, a retired nurse, says the most unusual item they’ve sold was a kitchen sink which they found in a skip, which brought in £12 at auction.

Derek added: “The one single item which generated the most money was an opal ring, which was sold for £800.”