Vital volunteers at North Devon Hospice have received royal recognition for their contribution to the community.
The hospice’s volunteers are recipients of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest honour for volunteer groups and the equivalent to an MBE.
The award recognises and celebrates outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers who regularly devote their time to helping and providing opportunity for others in the community and improving the quality of life.
The hospice’s volunteers were one of five recipients in Devon.
They will be presented with their awards by Devon’s Lord Lieutenant, David Fursdon, the Queen’s personal representative in the county, at a special ceremonial event later in the year.
Stephen Roberts, chief executive of North Devon Hospice, said: “I am bursting with pride that the volunteers of North Devon Hospice have been recognised in this way.
“There’s not a single part of hospice life that has not been supported by a volunteer, throughout our 36-year history of caring for local people.
“In so doing, each and every one of them are making an impact on someone’s life at a time when they need all the support they can get.
“I could not think of a more fitting way for this impact to be recognised than the Queen’s Voluntary Award.”
Sue Friend, who co-ordinates volunteering at North Devon Hospice, said she was over-the-moon to hear they had been recognised with the highest honour in the land.
She said: “Our volunteers are an incredibly special group. We have over 500 volunteers supporting us and the dedication shown by each individual bowls me over on a daily basis.
“They make an enormous difference to the lives of local people and quite simply there would be no hospice care in North Devon without them.”
Sue said that it has been heart-warming to keep in touch with the volunteer team throughout the recent restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, to hear how eager they all are to return to action.
She said: “We’ve been so grateful that some of our volunteers have been able to continue their duties in the last few months, such as our volunteer counsellors who have been able to provide support to local people over the phone.
“But of course, for safety reasons many volunteer roles are unable to be carried out right now. We hope that changes soon, because it is a sign of their incredible commitment to the hospice that they are all so eager to return and help out. This is why our team of volunteers fully deserve to be honoured in this way.”
Two volunteers who are itching to return to their duties are husband and wife pair Brian and Mary Aicheler, who both volunteer their time for the hospice.
Brian volunteers at The Long House the hospice’s outreach centre in Holsworthy, while wife Mary volunteers at the charity’s furniture centre in the town.
Brian said: “I miss everyone at The Long House. I hope it’s not too long before I can go back. I really miss helping people. I keep thinking about the patients and how they are getting on.”
While the hospice has been able to maintain its care services throughout the recent restrictions, Mr Roberts said volunteers will be vital in helping the hospice recover in the future.
He said: “Our volunteers help out in literally every facet of hospice life, so it is a struggle to operate without so many of them right now.
“For example, a huge number help out with our fundraising activities and in our charity shops, all of which have suffered recently.
“It will take a monumental effort from across the community for us to come out the other side of this, but I am so encouraged by the fact we have one of the best volunteer teams in the country to help that happen.
“Each volunteer cares so deeply for the patients and families we support. That is why they have been honoured in such a way, and that is why I know they will do everything they can to help North Devon Hospice pull through these tough times.”