We are celebrating Volunteers' Week, a national initiative running until June 12. Today, we chat to hospice volunteer Mike Howden.

We are celebrating Volunteers' Week, a national initiative running until June 12. Today we chat to Mike Howden, from Waltham, who has volunteered at the hospice for four years.

Before retiring, Mike worked for many years at the Grimsby Telegraph in advertising and marketing, and offered his graphic design skills to St Andrew’s and Andy’s.

He also volunteers once a week at Appetite, the hospice’s servery.

He said: “A good friend of mine was a volunteer at the hospice and she encouraged me to join. Fortunately I’d had no need to use the hospice for health or family reasons, so I’d never stepped foot in here before – and I was immediately bowled over at what an amazing place it is.

“I suppose we all have preconceptions about the C word and dying, and hospices. St Andrew’s is there for the sad times, but it’s also about so much more.

“Extraordinary things happen here. There are things like farm visits and days out for the younger patients at Andy’s, and regular visits from therapy dogs. A supporter brought his pet owls in to see people, and a group exhibited creepy crawlies too. Recently, a couple renewed their wedding vows and I was very touched when I heard of that. These magical little touches make the hospice very unique, and speaking generally, people don’t realise these things happen.

“I’ve made lots of friends since joining, and I’ve met people from all walks of life. We have so much fun and I wish I’d got involved sooner.“

Raising funds is a mountain to climb. It’s tough out there and there are many charities competing with each other for a small share. We need regular income to keep services going, and the hospice constantly needs to be maintained or updated. The public are amazingly generous.

“I’ve watched the new building go up and I couldn’t believe the size of it. We were allowed a tour before it officially opened and there were tears in my eyes, because it’s awesome. It’s like a five-star hotel.

“The people of North East Lincolnshire and the surrounding area should be so proud of what they have here, and I would urge everyone to come and see for themselves. It’s such a magical, happy and very special place.”

The variety of volunteering opportunities at St Andrew’s and Andy’s is wide-ranging, and at all levels. For more information and for current opportunities, visit www.standrewshospice.com or phone 01472 350908.

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