Meet our amazing hospitality volunteer Judith
Since first stepping into the hospice in 1981, our wonderful hospitality volunteer Judith Jones has scrubbed, washed, starched, ironed, served thousands upon thousands of cups of tea and coffee, and generally worked her socks off during her four decades with Rowcroft Hospice! We’re super proud of this amazing lady who refers to herself as our very own “trolley dolly”! Here she reflects on her lifetime’s work as a volunteer in Rowcroft’s Inpatient Unit, where she welcomes people to the hospice in the best way possible – with a simple cuppa or two!
How Judith got involved
”I first saw an article in the paper in 1981, asking for volunteers to come and help at the hospice, to help get it ready to open in 1982. They were looking for people to clean it up, for example washing down walls and brushing out cupboards. So I came in to help out.
“When the hospice first opened, the beds were all up on the first floor; patients used to go up and down in the lift. I volunteered on the ward, and I used to go around with trays offering patients drinks, like we do now with the trolley. There weren’t very many patients initially and there was a little kitchen upstairs but it was very small – a bit like a pokey cupboard. The matron was very much the force behind organising it all.”
Judith’s volunteer role at the hospice
“At one point, I worked in the laundry as I really like ironing (unlike most people!). We had to starch all of the nurses’ white aprons to keep them looking clean. These days you can get starch in bottles and spray it on, but back then we had to mix up starch and water to the right consistency so that it was like a light glue, and then dip the aprons in and out again. It took a long time to do the starching, and the starch made the aprons really stiff. We had to iron them with a really hot iron when the aprons were still very damp, and then we used to hang them over rails to dry. We also had a whirly by the kitchen to hang the washing on.
“When the laundry moved offsite to Teignmouth Road, I decided that I wanted to have more contact with the patients again. So I became a hospitality volunteer – a trolly dolly! And that’s what I’m still doing now! I think the patients really appreciate the cups of tea and coffee. Some people say ‘that’s lovely thank you so much’, and it’s really nice to hear that, or even if they just nod when you pour them a drink, you know they appreciate it. Sometimes I used to arrange the flowers too; it’s lovely to have the floral displays around the hospice.”
How the hospice has changed over time
“The hospice has changed quite a bit since I started. It’s great that visitors can now stay overnight more easily if they’d like to. Before they had to sleep in a chair by the bed, but now we have some cuddle beds so that relatives can sleep with their loved one, or there’s a separate room for visitors to sleep in if they prefer.
“It’s strange to think that Rainbow House – which is now where some of Rowcroft’s offices are – used to be owned by someone else and they used to hold auctions there. I often went along to the auctions with a list of things to bid for and it was very busy on auction days on the site.
“The grounds have also changed; they have been beautifully created and they are lovely now. I remember them being quite wild before.
“People think that the hospice is just somewhere that you come to die and that it’s a terribly sad place, but it’s not like that at all. People don’t necessarily come to die at all; sometimes people come in to get the right medication and then they go home again.”
Judith’s thoughts about volunteering
“I still really enjoy the volunteering here, as I did when I started all those years ago, and I’ve made so many fantastic friends along the way.”
Rowcroft is so grateful to Judith for her inspiring devotion to the hospice over four decades. We’d also like to thank all our other amazing volunteers – past and present – who have dedicated their time and energy to Rowcroft by supporting us in so many different ways – in the hospice itself and in our gardens, offices, shops, cafes, and at our fundraising events. It is because of their incredible kindness and generosity of spirit that Rowcroft has been able to continue to care for our patients and families in South Devon.