Violet has been with Haven House from the very beginning and has seen it grow over many years, long before it arrived at its current home, The White House, in Woodford Green. When Violet started volunteering with the hospice in 1999 it was operating from a temporary office on Cranbrook Road in Ilford.
At the time founder Sue Irwin was trying to secure a home for the hospice. Violet, a local resident born in Manor Park, heard about Sue’s vision for Haven House from her colleague Laura, who she worked with at the Kenneth Moore Theatre in Ilford.
“Back then Haven House had one fundraiser, an administrator, a facilities person and just two or three volunteers. It is lovely to see how everything has changed since those early days.”
To begin with Violet helped with simple administration such as filing and stuffing envelopes with newsletters, but she quickly established her reputation for being skilled at sorting money from collections and events.
It is a role which Violet still does with relish to this day. She can often be found in the post room emptying out Red House Boxes and busily putting pennies and pounds through a counting machine.
“It is not a simple task. Some of these new coins are a bit naughty and it is harder to get them down their slot. Volunteering gives you satisfaction that you are helping people and it also helps the charity by saving money.”
Violet has often found herself unexpectedly in the spotlight. In recent years she has been a contestant on quiz shows Deal or No Deal and The Weakest Link. She made her TV debut on Double Your Money in 1965 and then appeared on Take Your Pick in 1969. Always keen for a dance, she never misses the opportunity to show off her dance moves at the hospice’s Summer Fayre.
About taking part in these activities, she says:
“I do not mind doing these things for the fun of it. I like to make people laugh. You have got to do that in life.”
Having recently celebrated her 85th birthday, she has no intention of slowing down. Her ability to brighten up everyone’s day with a joke and song, and her commitment to volunteering have seen her win a Heart of Essex Award. She attended the glitzy ceremony with her friend Mary, who has been volunteering at Haven House for almost as long.
When she walked on stage to collect her award Violet received a minute-long round of applause. After thanking the audience she admits she was too overcome with emotion to say anything more.
“When I think about Haven House I start getting weepy and emotional because it is such a lovely place. The good that we do here and the care that we provide to the children is exceptional. I hope more volunteers can come and join us.”
For more information visit Haven House