Our contribution to local charity Willowbrook Hospice may only be a drop in the ocean, but when Teresa Ruskin and Paula Bentley went over to present our cheque, they were received as though they were ‘Knights in Shining Armour’.
As a rule, it’s easy for a company to decide to ‘do something for charity’. The hard part is deciding which charity should be the beneficiary: at least, that’s usually the hard part…
In our case, even before a poll of all our colleagues, it was always pretty clear who the ‘winner’ would be: Willowbrook Hospice. A long-time customer of North West Vending, Willowbrook is just down the road from us, in Prescot. It cares for people in St Helens, Knowsley and the surrounding areas who are living with life-limiting diseases.
Willowbrook has ten in-patient beds. Additionally, it hosts weekly out-patient clinics and is registered for up to 50 day therapy places a week. Although approximately 95% of the patients have cancer, Willowbrook treats other life limiting diseases, such as motor neurone disease, end-stage heart failure and lung disease.
Our idea was to hold a weekly sweepstake, with the winner the one who correctly ‘predicts’ the National Lottery bonus ball. It’s rather like a modern-day football card: a proportion of the money generated goes as a cash prize to the winner; the remainder goes into the charity ‘kitty’.
Since the Hospice opened in 1997, it has cared for over 6,000 patients and this year, it expects to receive over 850 patient referrals. No wonder it costs £5.84 a minute, just to keep the doors open. Just to stand still.
It puts our contribution into sharp focus: the £300 we raised, over the course of a year, (thanks mostly to Teresa Ruskin’s indefatigable commitment to gathering in the weekly contributions and keeping everybody enthused), will pay for fifty-one minutes and thirty-seven seconds of Willowbrook’s work…
Nevertheless, when Teresa and Paula Bentley dropped in at Willowbrook to present our cheque, they were greeted as though they were Knights in Shining Armour.
Fundraiser Nicky Saunders had organised coffee in a meeting room adjacent to the hospice’s bright, airy reception area and she was full of apologies for ‘the mess.’ There’s work going on, (there usually is, these days) and stray equipment has been temporarily quartered in every spare space. Nicky speaks with the passion of a woman who has a personal, as well as professional story to tell. She lost her husband to cancer 13 years ago and her father passed away at Willowbrook’s barely six months ago. You feel as though she’s somehow part of the fibre of the place.
‘I understand people’s perceptions (about hospices) but the minute they walk through door they can sense that this is an exceptional system of care’, she said. Unfortunately for Nicky and her fellow fundraisers, it’s not until people are faced with the reality of life-limiting illness that they come to appreciate what the hospice provides for people when they’re at their most vulnerable. ‘It’s hard to tell people what we do, because people don’t want to know’ Nicky said. ‘It’s really difficult, but look around: this is what we’re raising money for.’
By the time the visit is over, Teresa is more committed than ever to keeping up the good work. The message from Nicky had been loud and clear: “Well done, and thanks!”