Two sisters in their 70s have returned to their volunteering roles at their local children’s hospice – 30 years after their first shift.
Susan Sidebotham and Gillian Summerfield, of Chorley, arrived at Derian House Children’s Hospice in 1993 as two of the charity’s first ever volunteers.
The sisters eventually said goodbye to the hospice due to work and family commitments, but returned in October this year – during the hospice’s 30th anniversary year – to pick up where they left off.
Susan and Gill have been helping out for just a few hours a week with cleaning, washing up, and preparing food in the kitchen for the hospice families.
“We first heard about Derian House when the hospice was being built,” said Susan Sidebotham, 77, a retired civil servant.
“My sister and I came along when it had opened to see if they needed any volunteering help, and so we both started coming in the evening to help out with the cleaning duties. My sister and I had our very own tabards. I remember that we sewed little motifs onto them – mine had a teddy bear on and Gill’s had a clown.
“The hospice was much smaller back then and not quite as modern – I remember that it was fully carpeted. But I would say that the sensory room today is still as relaxing as I remember the original room to be.
“In the end, we made the decision to leave Derian House due to our other commitments with work and family at the time. It is only now, so many years on, and I saw that the hospice was looking to recruit some new volunteers. We’re retired now, so I said to my sister – let’s have a go! And here we are, after all these years.
“I think that it is absolutely marvelous that Derian House has been helping families for 30 years,” said Susan.
“The charity is so well known now throughout the country – it does feature quite frequently on the television. I just think it is an incredible place. I hope I can volunteer here for quite some time.”
Susan and her sister Gill both fit their volunteering hours in around their busy lifestyles – taking care of grandchildren and going to the gym.
“I wanted to volunteer at Derian because I had young daughters at the time and I felt I wanted to give something back,” said Gill Summerfield, 71, who is also a retired civil servant.
“So we started coming to the hospice in the evenings to do a bit of cleaning. The hospice has grown so much. I remember how different the kitchen and dining room looked when we were there, much smaller. I remember the swimming pool back then too.
“Then this year we saw that Derian House was on the hunt for new volunteers and so we decided to apply. There is such a lovely atmosphere at Derian House because everyone is so friendly and welcoming. I think a lot of people hear ‘hospice’ and automatically think it is a sad place, but it’s a wonderful happy place. I think it’s fantastic that the hospice is still here for families after it first opened 30 years ago.”
Frances Lees, Volunteer Services Coordinator at Derian House, said: “It’s fantastic that Susan and Gill have decided to return to support the families of Derian House all these years later – and during our 30th anniversary year too! They are both fantastic volunteers, we are very lucky to have them.
“There are so many good things about volunteering – it’s a great way to make new friends, learn something new, and do something for a good cause. Our volunteers saved us more than £100,000 in staff costs last year – we simply couldn’t do what we do without them!”
Derian House, based in Chorley, cares for more than 400 babies, children, young people and their families from across the North West and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.