Volunteer Kay, 71, is recognised for 21 years of service to hospice

Hospice of St Francis volunteer Kay Lewis is recognised for 21 years of giving back.
Hospice of St Francis volunteer Kay Lewis is recognised for 21 years of giving back.

A volunteer who has racked up 21 years of service at a hospice has been presented a volunteer award in recognition of her dedication.

Hospice of St Francis helper Kay Lewis was selected from more than 80 nominations in the Hospice UK’s 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award.

The 71 year old was presented with the national accolade by Lord Michael Howard, chairman of the national cause.

Speaking after the presentation in Leeds Kay, who lives in Tring, said: “To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement. Everything I do at the hospice gives me so much fulfilment and pleasure. I’m very lucky to work alongside the most superb team of hospice staff and I can’t express how much it means to be part of that team.

“To be honoured for doing something which means so much to me is remarkable and very humbling. I feel privileged to be a very small cog in a wheel of compassion, kindness and commitment.”

The charity stalwart started volunteering with the hospice in 1993 - a year after moving to Tring with her late husband, RAF Wing Commander Derek Lewis.

She helped at the inpatient unit and then trained as a bereavement support volunteer, becoming a member of the telephone support line team and later a one-to-one bereavement supporter, visiting relatives in their own homes or at the hospice.

Encouraged by her husband, Kay was also instrumental in approaching the RAF Benevolent Fund to secure grants to support the charity’s good work, which has been of enormous benefit to the hospice’s income stream over the years.

Kay took a short break from volunteering in 2007 when her husband became ill but she returned to the hospice in 2010, undertaking a range of roles including that of ambassador, which sees her talking to community groups about the charity’s work.

She also works closely with Tania Brocklehurst, clinical bereavement lead at the hospice, helping with administration and is a supervisor for the hospice’s telephone support line for bereaved family members, carers and friends.

She helps coordinate Tea at 2 - a group for bereaved carers - and she is the co-ordinator for Cooking with Chris, a twice yearly cookery programme, which encourages bereaved participants to learn new skills and build their confidence in creating healthy meals.

In addition, she handwrites hundreds of cards every year which are sent to the principal relative or carer on the first anniversary of a patient’s death.

Voluntary services co-ordinator Gillian Van der Merwe said: “Kay is a very special person. She really is one in a million and we are very fortunate and privileged to have her support and friendship.

“She has a way of making people feel included, valued and heard in a very genuine way and an ability to talk to anyone about absolutely anything. We’re incredibly proud and absolutely delighted that Kay’s dedication should be acknowledged in this way.”

The Hospice of St Francis currently has more than 1,056 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, helping in more than 75 different supporting roles across all departments. The organisation would be unable to provide the level of care that it does without their support, commitment, enthusiasm and compassion.

“Volunteering defines the hospice and it’s through our volunteers that we are able to deliver the care that makes such a difference to so many when time is precious,” said Gillian.

“Each of our volunteers goes the extra mile, sharing their skills, creating a tranquil and warm environment, raising vital funds, supporting families, and caring for patients and we’d like to thank each and every one of them for everything they do.”

If you’d like to become a volunteer at The Hospice of St Francis, helping it to deliver the free care which costs £4.7 million a year to fund, visit www.stfrancis.org.uk to find out more or call voluntary services on 01442 869550.