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Volunteers at Ashgate Hospice will be selflessly giving up their Christmas Day this year to help support patients and their families who are facing their last Christmas together.
The North Derbyshire hospice has more than 600 volunteers who carry out a range of vital roles to support the charity’s services.
Once again this Christmas and over the New Year, volunteers at Ashgate will be continuing to give up their time so the hospice can keep on caring.
Among those volunteering on Christmas Day this year are Ward Volunteer, Andrea Jenner, and Volunteer Receptionist, Lesley Walton, who have been volunteering at the charity for 27 years between them.
Andrea, who takes meal and drink orders and serves patients and families staying on the hospice’s Inpatient Unit, started volunteering in October 2008 and helps out every Christmas.
She said: “I have volunteered on Christmas Day for several years now. It’s great to give something back at a time of giving; especially as for many people this will be their last Christmas together.
“Many relatives have their Christmas lunch with us, in the room with their loved one. Naturally, there have been changes due to COVID but the hospice still tries to make it as special as possible whilst ensuring everyone is as safe as they can be.
“No two shifts are the same really, every patient is an individual and their loved ones are different too and are treated accordingly.”
Andrea says volunteering at Ashgate for the last 13 years has taught her “what is really important in life.”
“I’ve always said that the hospice has done a great deal more for me than I have done for it,” added Andrea.
“Seeing remarkable people at their best during the worst of times is humbling and life affirming.
“I have met people who, as long as I have a memory, I will never forget. The staff are also amazing – they treat volunteers as valuable colleagues.
“I had no prior knowledge of Ashgate before volunteering yet I’m so glad I chose to volunteer. Like many people I thought a hospice was a place you went to die – oh boy, how wrong was I?”
Meanwhile, Lesley, a retired social worker, started volunteering at Ashgate after visiting her close friend on the Inpatient Unit and experiencing first-hand the “excellent” care she received.
On reception, she will be welcoming patients and their families as they arrive at the hospice and answering phone calls on Christmas Day.
Lesley, who joined the charity in 2007, said: “Families are meant to be together at Christmas and I am a member of the Ashgate family. In the absence of a family of my own I like to spend my time with my friends and colleagues at the hospice, whilst doing my bit to support my local community.
“I must admit – I’m definitely lured in by one of the hospice chef’s wonderful Christmas lunches which are lovingly made for patients, families, staff and volunteers. I always buy mine at the end of my shift and take it home with me!
“Ashgate is a family which I feel very proud and grateful to be a part of. Over the years I have made many wonderful friends and having the opportunity to use my experience to make a difference, whilst learning new skills, is what I love most about volunteering.”
Over the past year, Ashgate Inpatient Unit volunteers have served more than 14,000 meals to patients on the hospice’s ward, whilst its reception volunteers have spent over 1,700 hours welcoming visitors to the hospice.
Matt Corbishley, Director of People and Performance at Ashgate Hospice, added: “From our volunteer gardeners to those who help care for patients on our Inpatient Unit – we are so lucky to have over 600 volunteers at Ashgate who carry out a whole range of roles to support our care for patients and families.
“Their contribution across the organisation is immeasurable and there would be so much we would struggle to do without their time, skills and commitment.
“During the festive season our care doesn’t stop and neither does the dedication of our amazing volunteers.
“It’s thanks to people like Lesley and Andrea that we’re able to continue being there for the people who need us most – and I can’t thank them and all of our volunteers enough for everything they do.”
Ashgate Hospice has released a one-off episode of their popular The Life and Death Podcast exploring feelings of grief, loss and finding comfort during the festive period.
The Christmas episode is available to stream on all platforms by searching for ‘The Life and Death Podcast Ashgate Hospice’.