Since 2017, Dennis Tattoo has been a familiar and welcoming face to patients, their families, staff and all visitors to St Elizabeth Hospice as he greets them at the hospice reception.
He is one of more than 1,500 volunteers who generously give their time to support the hospice by carrying out roles in one of its 32 retail shops, through to volunteering on the hospice inpatient unit and supporting the hospice administrative teams.
Every year their support helps the hospice deliver specialist palliative care to more than 3,000 people living with a progressive or life-limiting illness, and their families, throughout East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth, and Waveney.
“Volunteering at the hospice is a two-way street,” explained Dennis. “I give a little time to support this special organisation in my local community but at the same time I benefit personally, as volunteering gives shape and rhythm to my own life.
“It offers me some balance to my week. I work part-time for one of the exam boards but have the flexibility to enjoy spending time with friends and family, as well as my hobbies of walking, reading and watching sport.”
As part of his role, Dennis, a former schoolteacher, volunteers once a week on reception, where he welcomes visitors to the hospice, answers and directs calls and he has also helped establish the hospice’s bereavement support walking group, Walk On.
Held on a fortnightly basis, Walk On is an additional support to the hospice’s bereavement service, LivingGrief, which aims to give all the opportunity to meet new people, talk about shared experiences and offer support to one another, while also enjoying a sense of wellbeing brought by walking in the outdoors.
“Being a part of Walk On has been a real privilege, especially as I can combine two of my passions, walking and the outdoors, with supporting the hospice and helping others,” said Dennis.
“I enjoy volunteering for the hospice. From the first day I visited, the staff and everyone connected with the hospice have been warm and welcoming. I have met impressive people and many friendly faces, who I look forward to seeing.
“Staff recognise the value of volunteers and make you feel part of the team, asking how you are, offering you a coffee or tea. It is a positive and supportive environment to be part of.
“When I first joined the hospice, like many people, I had the misconception that it might be a sad place. Volunteering has taught me that this view couldn’t be further from the truth, as there is also laughter and smiles, while the breadth of the service is all-embracing.
“From training and education opportunities through to counselling, the Community Care Unit, the young adult service and care in the community, the value and range of services provided by the team is exceptional.
“Volunteering on reception, I speak to many people who tell me they feel fortunate to be under the care of the hospice and how it provides them and their loved ones with a personal and individual service, which is so appreciated when facing challenging times.
“I would encourage anyone considering volunteering to speak to other volunteers to get a feel of their experiences. I remember driving back from the hospice on the first day I visited to see if volunteering would be an option for me, and all I could think was ‘I hope I get the opportunity to support such a special organisation’.
“Four years on, volunteering for St Elizabeth Hospice has made me a better person and increased my awareness of the vital service the hospice provides in the local area.”
To learn more about volunteering opportunities at St Elizabeth Hospice email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/support-us/support-us/volunteer-for-us/.