Volunteers are the backbone of the hospice. Today we speak to Rosa and Gina...

Without its army of more than 500 volunteers, St Andrew’s Hospice would not exist.

That is the reality for North East Lincolnshire’s only hospice, where volunteers work in all areas of the charity and help make each day count for the poorly adults and children who use it.

Friends Rosa Wichtner and Gina Dean, both from Grimsby, volunteer at the hospice’s shop in Grimsby Road, Cleethorpes. It is the latest hospice store to open in the region, bringing the total to 15 shops, two tea bars and one donation centre.

Rosa volunteers four days a week, and was inspired after experiencing family illnesses. Rosa’s mother, who had dementia, died aged 87 about 18 months ago, and within weeks, her young daughter was diagnosed with an illness. Having spent eight years caring for her mum and then facing challenges with her daughter, Rosa said she lost confidence in herself.

“Volunteering has given me it back,” she said. “I’m like a different person to the one I was a year ago. I managed a betting shop for 25 years and my husband ran a local business, so volunteering in one of the hospice’s shops seemed a very natural thing to do. It’s wonderful being part of such a great team.

“I’ve been helped many times when I needed it, and now it’s my turn to be able to do something for others. Going through what I’ve been through makes you realise that people need each other.”

Gina donates about 16 hours a week to the hospice. Her mum Christina Clayton was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and passed away six weeks later, spending one night in the hospice’s care. Gina married a month after her death, in the dress her mum bought her, and within six months became suddenly ill, ultimately having a pacemaker fitted.

Gina, whose late nephew also received care at the hospice, said: “Like Rosa, I’ve experienced a lot. The staff at the hospice were just fantastic when we needed them, and I’ll never forget how well they treated us all. That’s why I’m so delighted to be in a position to help out now. I’ve never been involved in retail at all, but I absolutely love it. I really enjoy being able to make a difference.

“The shop opened a few weeks ago and it’s going really well. The customers are happy and we are beginning to get regular visitors, although some people are still discovering us, because we are so new. We are the only hospice shop to sell a dedicated range of bicycles for all ages, and that’s going brilliantly. The range is proving very popular. It’s great that the hospice can provide a service in the heart of the community, but also that the community can support such a worthwhile and local cause.”

Click here to find out more about volunteering.

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