Why I volunteer: “To say thanks”

Categories: Community Engagement.

I volunteer to keep busy, to feel my contributions are worthwhile, meaningful, helpful, to help others and contribute to society. It is a way of saying thanks, of generating funds, making friends, having fun, being part of something special, learning, using my life’s experiences to the benefit of others, and feeling needed, useful, valued, and appreciated.

These feelings come to the fore  when  something dramatic happens in your life, and volunteering helps to repay the many special people or organisations that have helped. In  my case both my wife and I were especially moved 10 years ago when our niece was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  She was 33 with two very young boys. Our local hospice played such a major part in helping the family cope. This formed the basis of us starting fundraising activities, initially on our own, as well as helping to organise official hospice events. Then with a group of friends calling ourselves the “Fun-Raisers,” we generated thousands of pounds for East Lancs Hospice over the past 10 years.  

Typical Fun-Raisers events are coffee mornings, barbecues, quiz nights, baking competitions, fashion shows and golf days. We all helped in hospice-organised events such as bucket collecting, organising and running the Car Raffle, helping at Christmas Fayres, organised walks, fun runs, etc.  As the Fun-Raisers we have received tremendous support, help and advice from our fulltime colleagues, and we have all become great friends.  In addition, members of our Fun-Raising group also volunteered in the local hospice charity shop, and I spend one afternoon each week working in the Fundraising Department and with the General Administration Department on special projects as and when required.  

We formed the Fun-Raisers from a small group of friends who used to do voluntary work for another charity called Lords House Farm which catered for children and adults with special needs. I and another person were trustees and my wife Sue worked on the farm, often outside in demanding conditions, but said it was the best job she ever had. The charity closed when the owners of the farm moved to the Lake District.  

In another dramatic turn of events, at the beginning of last year my beloved wife was diagnosed with advanced sigmoid carcinoma. After emergency surgery, chemotherapy and a very brave battle, she was admitted to the hospice for the last few days of her life and died in September. She received round-the-clock care and was amongst friends and family when she passed away peacefully. No one can claim to not be moved by the first hand experience of seeing how the medical professionals, nurses and support staff offer such tremendous care, not only to the patients but their entire families. Saying thank you is simply not enough, volunteering is a wonderful way of expressing gratitude to the hospice movement.

Since the death of my beloved wife, I have continued with my voluntary work and in addition have offered to paint portraits of loved ones lost in similar circumstances. This was because I painted a portrait of my mother-in-law when she passed away aged 92 in 2016 and the family loved the painting. My aim is to paint portraits of other people’s loved ones whether they have passed away or are still alive and healthy in exchange for a donation to East Lancs Hospice.  

My first commission was of a family friend,  followed by three others raising around £100 per portrait. All have been challenging but in different ways. Family portraits are easier because you know or have known the person very well.

My latest commission is of three young children pictured together, who are very much alive and kicking, but present a totally different challenge. It is all part of the learning process because an amateur artist can only get better with practice. There are very many much better portrait artists than me, but if I can do it so can others with an interest in painting, so hopefully many more will take up the challenge and paint loved ones for donations to their local hospice.

 My paintings are done with oil on a 10 x 14-inch canvas pad, and I still attend art classes taught by a professional artist called Harry Caunce who has taught me since my retirement eight years ago.

Although I have always had an interest in art I never took art lessons beyond the age of 12. When day release was a common practice I worked for a chemical company four days a week and spent one day per week at college to become a Member of the Royal Chemical Society. I moved from the laboratory into sales around the time I met and then married Sue, and we enjoyed 46 memorable years. During this time, we had one amazing daughter, Emma, now married to Kevin with our two lovely grandchildren.

My career involved being the MD of a joint venture chemical company, taking me to all four corners of the world. A technical and business background in sales and marketing has helped me to understand the complexities of running and funding a hospice. I have been privileged to have been able to work with the wonderful people who make the hospices tick and it is my intention to increase my involvement and contribution for many more years to come.  

The Fun-Raisers next venture, excluding our annual Golf Day, is an ABBA /70s night with a disco, optional fancy dress, semi-professional singers, a quiz, raffle and obligatory pie and pea supper at the local golf club in September in memory of my wife Sue. Being a great ABBA fan, she would have loved it.

For more information visit East Lancs Hospice