My name is Tony, and I have been volunteering with St Clare for 12 years as of 2019! My role here is a volunteer Receptionist. I come to the hospice to meet and greet people who are visiting, manning the Reception desk with my fellow volunteer, Margaret. Sometimes, I come in on a Tuesday too, to cover when people are off.
As a Receptionist, you are dealing with so many different things. It certainly keeps your brain active! It can be very busy at times, with meetings, deliveries, and people visiting their relatives. I also try to give people the information they need about the Hospice and accessing our services, which feels like I am helping to get them the support they need.
I feel that the role of a volunteer Receptionist is very important, because we are the first port-of-call for people visiting, often giving them a first impression of the Hospice. The role isn’t just answering phones or administrative work – no two hours are the same, and it takes a lot of organisational skills, knowledge of the Hospice, and compassion to get it right.
People just can’t believe it when they come here. People do die with us here at St Clare, but they die with dignity, having made the most of every moment with the support of our care teams.
It was the same for me when my late wife, Janet, received support from St Clare Hospice. Janet received her diagnosis in 1995, after which she came to St Clare for Day Therapy and some counselling. Back then, St Clare was just a house!
Janet enjoyed coming to Day Therapy at St Clare, because she could meet other people who were experiencing similar things to her.
Because of what I have experienced in my own life, I understand the kind of things that people are going through when they visit St Clare. My own experiences help me to empathise with people, and offer support when they may be feeling anxious about coming to the hospice.
I have been a Volunteer Receptionist for nine years, and I feel like I have found my niche. I really enjoy it, and am so glad to be able to make a difference at St Clare.
I help in any way that I can, also volunteering at fundraising events as a marshal when I can. I volunteer as a Receptionist every Christmas Day, too. I just love being here, just like the rest of the year, and I’ll often volunteer on Easter and Good Friday, too.
I volunteer for the people who come to St Clare, and because it’s is a lovely place to be. If I can do my little bit, then I will. I always do my utmost to help people who need us, always going the extra mile because I’d like to think somebody would do that for me should I ever need it.
Volunteering also helps me to put things into perspective in my own life. It helps me to reflect on things.
I also get a lot of job satisfaction – and it’s rewarding, and emotional. Yet, when people ask me why I volunteer at St Clare, I always share the one same story: my standout moment during my Receptionist role…
A lot of people ask me to accompany them as they walk down to the Inpatient Unit, which I am always more than happy to do. One chap came in who had come to see his sister, so we signed him in at Reception and I started to walk him to the IPU. He started to tell me that he had never been to St Clare before. By the time we had reached The Sanctuary on our way, he got quite upset.
It was the first time I had met him, but he asked me if he could tell me something. I tried to reassure him that the doctors and nurses would be able to help him, but he insisted – so we sat down together. I asked him what was the matter, and he said he couldn’t go and see his sister because they hadn’t spoken for 20 years.
He asked me if I would go with him the rest of the way to her room, so I did, and it was just his sister in there, asleep. As we approached the door, one of the nurses came over; she wanted to wake up his sister to take her medication.
As the man’s sister was waking up, she started to look over at the door – where her brother and I were standing in the doorway. She was trying to focus on us, when suddenly, she realised who it was and opened up her arms to him.
After about an hour or so, the man came back over to Reception where I was still on shift. He came and thanked me, and pondered why he had left it so long. I said that we can all say that about someone in our lives.
The man’s sister died later that day, but he found the courage to say goodbye to her and share those special moments. I felt that I had played some small part in empowering him to go and see her – and that is why I do what I do here at St Clare.
I feel lucky to have had that opportunity. This experience is alone is worth doing the job, and I’m lucky to say that lots of things like that have happened before.
It’s an honour and privilege to volunteer at St Clare, and I hope to do it for as long as I can.