“I go line dancing, and when my line dancing teacher heard that I had taken early retirement, she came straight over to ask if I could help at a dancing session she had been booked for with Phyllis Tuckwell, some of whose staff were on a team-building day at Aldershot Football club. At the session, she stood at the front and taught them a few easy dance moves, while I stood dancing at the back so that they could follow me when they turned.”
“They obviously enjoyed it as there was a lot of laughter, and we were asked to stay for lunch afterwards. I got chatting to a very friendly lady – who turned out to be the Volunteer Manager – and as soon as I mentioned that I was a recently retired secretary, she persuaded me to come in and see her the following Monday. The rest is history!”
Denise started coming in one morning a week to help Tim, the shop’s manager, collate the weekly shop accounts. She settled in quickly and, as her role developed, started coming in more frequently, even offering to come in on a Saturday if a particular piece of work needed finishing off.
“As I got to do more and more, I needed to come in more often. I used to write and send out a monthly newsletter too, called ’Our Hospice Matters’, so I came in to do that, which I did not mind at all. It was nice to be given that challenge, and feel as though I was contributing something, giving something back to the community.”
When Tim retired, Denise moved into the HR department where she volunteered for another eight years. In 2014 she was asked if she would consider helping Occupational Therapist Lisi Pilgrim on a new indoor gardening project called Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH).
“I love gardening, so I jumped at the chance! I really like being in close contact with the patients, knowing that I am helping them to do things which they have always loved, like gardening, or just planting indoors.”
“I also enjoy the conversations we have around the table; it is amazing how cheerful the patients are and it is fascinating listening to them telling us all about their families and their lives.”
“There are so many things I love about volunteering for Phyllis Tuckwell. You feel as though you are using your time to help people, which is very rewarding. I am really pleased to have moved to a patient-facing role. Being able to talk and interact directly with patients takes that rewarding feeling so much further. Helping with patients is the real buzz, for me.”
Denise now helps solely with STH, coming to the hospice or Beacon Centre three times a week to help Lisi run the sessions.
“Volunteering means I can carry on being useful in my life. I can get out of the house and enjoy spending time with other people during the day. Once you stop work you lose the companionship you get from working with people every day, so it is nice to get that back. And as well as getting a huge amount of enjoyment from volunteering, I also feel as though I am doing something worthwhile. I have met so many really lovely people – staff, volunteers and patients – it is a win-win situation!”
Phyllis Tuckwell is holding an Open Day on November 18 for potential volunteers to visit the hospice. For more information visit Phyllis Tuckwell Volunteers’ Open Day