David Littlewood is one of our volunteers that we could simply not do without. He has been involved with the Hospice since 1986 and was recently presented with his 35-year award. So, we took the opportunity to catch up with him and find out more about his time volunteering with St. Rocco’s.
“My involvement with the Hospice movement began way back in about 1970, when I was a young teacher in Farnworth, and the school were asked if they would have a stall as fundraising for a local Hospice,” said David.
“I didn’t know what a Hospice was until somebody explained about Dame Cicely Saunders, and what she'd done. She was a sort of trailblazer for all Hospices, and that they wanted to raise this money to provide care for people at the end-of-life. I thought what a great idea, so we helped raise the money and I didn't think much more about it.”
Move to Warrington
“Then, in 1978 I got a job as head teacher at a Warrington primary school - St. Barnabas. Shortly after, I began to hear about the fundraising for a Hospice in Warrington and thought that that was interesting. Then it was announced that they'd bought the old vicarage in Orford and they wanted volunteers.
“They wrote to various churches to see if they could provide one person as a volunteer to help out, but nobody wanted to do it, people said, ‘don't go there, it'll be very depressing’. So, I said, well, we need somebody, and if nobody else will do it, I'll go. I don't know whether I'll be able to deal with it, but I’ll give it a try.
“So, I applied and had an interview with Chris Thomas. Shortly after, I got a message saying would I go to the hospice on a Friday evening. When I arrived the first three patients had been admitted the day before. I did all sorts of things. Sometimes I used to go and cut the grass, other times make cups of tea and wash the pots and chat to the patients.
“After a few years I was invited to become a Trustee of St. Rocco’s, a role I undertook for nine years.”
Building the new Hospice
“This meant I was a Trustee when the new Hospice was being planned and built. Working with another Trustee, we went and looked at the Good Shepherd Hospice in Chester and saw how the care had evolved and patients were now in single bedrooms, as opposed to sharing a room as they did in the vicarage. So, that was built into our plans from the outset along with a much bigger and better day centre (The Vitality Centre).
“We met regularly with the architects during the planning stage, and it was incredible to see the plans come to fruition and the money raised to enable the new Hospice to be built. My proudest day was when the new hospice opened. It was a very special moment you felt something that was really fit-for-purpose had arrived in Warrington.
“When you look back it is an amazing achievement. From those people who sat down initially with a blank piece of paper, and a few ideas. Who then actually sold the idea to the hospital, and setup the charity that's now probably the best known across Warrington.
“Not only the best known, but also the most loved. I call it the jewel in the crown of Warrington because I really think it is.”
“It’s my drug!”
“So, that’s my story. Having known what the philosophy of the Hospice was from the from the very first, and that this was so important for Warrington. It's giving a little, two hours of your week, back to society. I go to church on a Sunday, but I wanted to do something outside that is useful to the people of Warrington and would save some money.
“Now, Friday night at St. Rocco's is part of my life and my family know it too, they say it’s like my drug! I love coming here and being able to help with jobs and chat to patients and their families. I know it really helps. I appreciate the joy of the place. People might think it is depressing being around those who are near end-of-life, but we all have to go sometimes, and the comfort and care provided at St. Rocco’s is incredible and helps people cope with the inevitable.
The other special thing is the staff. In my 35 years I have met many. I know that a lot of them have retired, or moved on to other jobs, but I think of them as friends that I really value who are doing an amazing job.”