Cotswold Char­i­ties

30 years of Friends

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE -

They have do­nated tens of thou­sands of hours of their time, serv­ing thou­sands of din­ners and cups of tea, with ev­ery penny raised in aid of Long­field hospice care char­ity.

Ev­ery one of the mem­bers of the Wot­ton Friends sup­porter group has a per­sonal rea­son for be­ing in­volved. Be it mother, friend or hus­band - each of them know first­hand the dif­fer­ence the char­ity makes to peo­ple’s lives in Glouces­ter­shire.

Wot­ton Friends sup­porter group was launched 30 years ago to co­in­cide with the found­ing of Long­field, then known as Cotswold Care Hospice. They started with a group of 15 women.

Since then they have raised £418,000 for Long­field, which sup­ports peo­ple in Glouces­ter­shire with life-lim­it­ing ill­nesses and their car­ers and fam­i­lies. Four of the found­ing mem­bers are still part of the group which is now aim­ing to hit the £500,000 mark in the next 12 months.

They are more than sim­ply a group of vol­un­teers. They have be­come dear friends who are al­ways there for each other. “If one of us is poorly it’s like jun­gle drums, we all do what we can,” said Les­ley Hol­land, one of the found­ing mem­bers.

That sup­port was es­pe­cially im­por­tant for Les­ley when her hus­band Paul be­came ter­mi­nally ill. Long­field, the char­ity she had sup­ported for all those years, pro­vided hospice at home care so that Paul could do what he wished, to die at home. Wot­ton Friends were there to sup­port her.

“With­out the Long­field hospice at home team he wouldn’t have died with the dig­nity that he de­served. That sup­port made such a dif­fer­ence to him and to me.”

It was the en­ergy and de­ter­mi­na­tion of Jackie Sims which started Wot­ton Friends. “My mother died from breast cancer in May 1987 and on her death, her Macmil­lan nurse, He­len Hutchin­son, asked if I would be will­ing to con­sider form­ing a sup­port group for a dream she had, which was to pro­vide a hospice for the then area of South Glouces­ter­shire,” said Jackie.

“I felt driven to help. I went along

to a meet­ing in Stroud where I met the found­ing mem­bers: Bar­bara Curd, Bishop John Gibbs and Dr An­drew Bod­damwhetham. I came away from that meet­ing full of en­thu­si­asm, de­ter­mined to form a group of sup­port­ers.”

Thanks to the sup­port of vol­un­teers like Wot­ton Friends, the char­ity has gone from strength to strength. Long­field sup­ports more than 700 peo­ple ev­ery year. All of its ser­vices are pro­vided free of charge.

Over the three decades there aren’t many fundrais­ing events Wot­ton Friends haven’t tried their hand at. Fetes, barn dances, fash­ion shows, drama pro­duc­tions, a pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tion, cof­fee morn­ings, stalls - they’ve done it all. Since May 1988 the group has served as wait­resses at the Ma­sonic Hall in Wot­ton-un­der-edge.

Septem­ber to June they will work on at least 52 oc­ca­sions. The plan­ning of the rota, it­self a mam­moth task, is now done by ‘new girl’ and chair­woman Tri­cia Hen­der­son-ross who has been a mem­ber of the group for 11 years. She be­came in­volved in the group af­ter hear­ing about it through her hus­band, who is a mem­ber of one of the Wot­ton-based Ma­sonic Lodges.

“As well as fundrais­ing we are able to act as Long­field am­bas­sadors,” said Tri­cia. “We are able to in­form peo­ple of the great work car­ried out by the char­ity which is help­ing so many sick peo­ple in Glouces­ter­shire.

“We have served at a num­ber of wed­ding and other events with wait­ress­ing be­ing the ac­tiv­ity which has raised the most money over the years.

“All those years of wait­ress­ing for Ma­sonic lodges has given the gen­tle­men a very friendly style of wait­ress­ing which they very much ap­pre­ci­ate. We also help to keep them on the straight and nar­row when it comes to di­etary habits, we re­mem­ber who is sup­posed to be low fat or su­gar free!” Tri­cia added.

The group have never had fall­ing-outs and, though they had dif­fer­ences of opin­ions, have al­ways been close-knit. So what is the se­cret?

“For a group of women with quite strong char­ac­ters there has never been an at­mos­phere or an ar­gu­ment,” said Irene. “We’ve al­ways recog­nised why we are do­ing the work we do and it’s never a drudge.”

“The main thing is that we en­joy what­ever we are do­ing,” says Jackie. “I of­ten think now about what I started and I feel quite taken aback by the enor­mity of it all and how much we raised. With­out the sup­port of th­ese ladies we wouldn’t have achieved any of it.”

Mar­i­lyn Map­stone, who joined the group in 2002 and was Chair 20052014, now lives in Aus­tralia but still keeps in touch with the Friends.

“I started vol­un­teer­ing many years ago at Long­field (then Cotswold Care Hospice), then joined Wot­ton Friends for a few years be­fore be­com­ing Chair due to Jackie’s ill health. It was with pride and trep­i­da­tion as I took over from Jackie who had es­tab­lished the group and its fol­low­ing.

“It is the con­sis­tency of mem­bers and ex­cel­lent lo­cal sup­port which I feel are the rea­sons for the con­tin­ued suc­cess and our be­lief in Long­field. Even though I am the other end of the world it is won­der­ful to be on Face­book and fol­low the events.”

Tri­cia also works as a vol­un­teer in reception at Long­field’s cen­tre in Minch­in­hamp­ton. “I hear pa­tients’ amaz­ing sto­ries which is the rea­son why I am so pas­sion­ate about the char­ity.”

Wot­ton Friends now has 17 mem­bers with ages rang­ing from the 40s to 86. They are de­ter­mined to crack that £500,000 tar­get in their 30th year. They hope to be re­cruit new mem­bers so that the group car­ries on but most of them have no in­ten­tion of re­tir­ing - just yet.

“Of course we are go­ing to keep go­ing,” said Les­ley. “We reap what we sow.”

“The main thing is that we en­joy what we’re do­ing,” said Joan. “I see this as my con­tri­bu­tion to the com­mu­nity that’s why I do it.”

‘If one of us is poorly it’s like jun­gle drums, we all do what we can’

The Wot­ton Friends of Long­field, gather for one of their monthly meet­ing, in the lounge of one of the Friends’ houses.

The Friends en­joy­ing their monthly meet­ing.

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