Saluting our volunteer heroes - all 500 of them

North Devon Gazette

It’s not every day that someone you know is nominated in the Queen’s birthday honours list, yet I’m blessed to know nearly 500 of them! Â

That is because the very special volunteers of North Devon Hospice were collectively recognised for their tremendous dedication and passion towards the cause. Â

They were bestowed with the honour of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS), the highest award given to a voluntary group in the UK and the equivalent to an MBE. As Volunteer Co-ordinator for North Devon Hospice, this was a special day which made me feel immensely proud.Â

Every day, millions of people across the UK make a massive difference through volunteering their time, knowledge and skills. Since 2002, as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, QAVS Awards have been shining a light on the amazing work of voluntary groups throughout the UK.  Â

For our hospice volunteers, the journey began over 40 years ago, when a small band of dedicated souls began giving up their free time to campaign for a hospice care service in North Devon. Â

In 2019, our volunteers passed the initial vetting process and a visit from the Lord Lieutenant’s office. Our honoured guests spent time meeting with volunteers from across the organisation and heard first-hand what it means to give their time for North Devon Hospice.  Â
After what felt a very long wait, we received confirmation in April 2020 that our volunteers were winners of this amazing accolade. Under strict royal instructions, we were unable to announce their success until the Queen’s official birthday honours list was announced on 1st June (another long wait!).Â

Due to the unprecedented events of 2020 and 2021, we are sadly still waiting for a time when our volunteers can be gathered, so that HM Lord Lieutenant can present the award in person. We had hoped to do it this week, but unfortunately Omicron had other ideas. However, whenever the actual presentation happens, it is sure to be a truly special occasion for all the volunteers who contribute to the life of the hospice.Â

The impact and importance of our hospice volunteers cannot be underestimated. Without them, North Devon Hospice would simply not be here. We would be unable to care for the 3,000 people each year who so badly need us. Â

Our volunteers support in every single facet of the organisation, including our Board of Trustees, IT, administration, reception, catering, gardening, complementary therapy, counselling, patient transport, bedded unit, retail, maintenance, fundraising and community support. Â

With such a variety of roles to choose from, residents of all ages across North Devon actively look to volunteer at the hospice. In fact, we often have a waiting list for many of our roles. Local businesses also get involved, offering corporate volunteering days for their staff.   Â

It has been difficult not having all our volunteers back where they want to be, actively volunteering with us, and we can only thank them for their patience and understanding. Â
Hopefully the pandemic continues to abate, and they can all continue in the roles they so enjoy and which are so vital to the hospice. Â

Throughout the darkest times of Covid, volunteers were vital to the hospice. The volunteer counselling team were keeping in touch with patients and their families, our IT team ensuring our systems continued to function, while our volunteer gardeners made sure the environment at both our main hospice at Deer Park, Barnstaple, and our outreach centre in Holsworthy, The Long House, were both in tip-top condition. Â

We were absolutely delighted when we welcomed back our fantastic retail volunteers and once again opened our hospice shops. There are still more volunteers to welcome back and, slowly, more of our incredible team are returning to their much-needed roles. We very much look forward to welcoming all our volunteers back very soon.Â

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is for every single person who tirelessly gives up their time to support the hospice. They are an inspiration and a delight. Well done to you all, this is a richly deserved accolade.Â

Sue FriendÂ
Volunteer CoordinatorÂ
North Devon HospiceÂ