“We are both so passionate about the hospice and to have the chance to volunteer and give back to the charity in some way, is extremely important to us,” said John Hammond, who volunteers at St Elizabeth Hospice’s Martlesham Retail Centre with his wife Julie Hammond.
“It is very rewarding and you learn lots of new skills as well as meet new friends in the process. I particularly enjoy how you can use your own skillset and life experiences to help the hospice, everybody really does have a skill that can be of use!”
John and Julie are among more than 1,500 volunteers who generously give their time to support St Elizabeth Hospice. These volunteers provide support in many ways, including working in one of its 31 retail shops, through to volunteering on the hospice inpatient unit and supporting the hospice administrative teams.
The couple, who live in Martlesham Heath, have been volunteering since the hospice’s Martlesham Retail Centre opened in March 2017 and have become familiar faces to many regular shoppers.
Julie added: “There’s never a dull moment volunteering and when we first started at the retail centre, it was really hard to not buy all the lovely things the shop sells!
“Volunteering at the hospice is very flexible and any amount of time we can give is greatly appreciated. I volunteer one and a half-days-a-week and John volunteers for two and a half-days-a-week, the team are really understanding if you would like to change your shifts.
“This flexibility has been so important to us as we are keen to support the hospice but also spend as much time with friends and family, especially our young granddaughter.
“For me it is nice to know, in our own small way, that we are helping raise money for the hospice so it can continue giving its wonderful care to the patients who use its services.”
Every year more than 3,000 people living with a progressive or life-limiting illness, and their families, are supported throughout East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney by the free specialist palliative care provision of St Elizabeth Hospice.
This care is provided by hospice staff who operate throughout the region but who are supported by a fantastic team of volunteers, like John and Julie, whose generosity enables St Elizabeth Hospice to continue evolving its services to care for more people in the local community.
Similar to many in Suffolk, both John and Julie have their own personal connections to the hospice.
“My mother was cared for by the hospice after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, while Julie’s grandmother had her end-of-life at the hospice and her father received care at home from hospice staff,” explained John.
“In all our experiences of the hospice and its services, the care has been amazing and the staff have been absolutely superb in how they looked after our loved ones and our whole families, during very difficult times in our lives. Volunteering allows us to give something back to St Elizabeth Hospice after what they gave us.
“There really is so much you can do through volunteering. In our roles we help in the warehouse sorting items that have come in as well assisting with creating displays on the shop floor. I also do driving for the hospice’s Hub, transporting medication and PPE to where it is needed, and serve as a hospice Ambassador, which sees me visit local groups to talk about the hospice and its role in the community.
“We have both enjoyed so many new experiences, whether that is organising a book sale, meeting people from all walks of life through to attending our first ever festival, FolkEast, to help run the hospice’s stall, we have loved every moment of volunteering and look forward to many more great experiences.”
Julie added: “From day one it has been a privilege to support the Martlesham Retail Centre and be a part of the hospice team. The community has really embraced us in Martlesham and the shop has become a focal point, where people come together and that is such a special thing to be a part of.
“We both cannot recommend volunteering enough and would encourage anyone thinking of volunteering to give it a go. There’s no pressure, everybody is very friendly and there is such a great variety of roles and best of all, you will be supporting a good cause in the process.”
To learn more about volunteering opportunities at St Elizabeth Hospice email email@example.com or visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/support-us/support-us/volunteer-for-us/