“If it brings a smile to someone’s face, nothing is too much trouble”

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Steve Le Tissier’s first introduction to volunteering at St Catherine’s was on Christmas day last year. As a volunteer covid screener, it was a day he’ll never forget – he even had lunch with Father Christmas! 

Here Steve tells us more about volunteering at Christmas and his new role helping in the kitchen: 

My father died at St Catherine’s in 1990, so I knew the hospice well. I’d been volunteering a bit previously for Macmillan’s fundraising team, who helped look after my wife before she died, and then I saw this role at St Catherine’s for a covid screener. So, I applied, did the induction and my first shift was on Christmas day last year! 

“Volunteering at Christmas actually helped me, because I have five children and rather than choosing who to spend it with, it was great to come here!  

“My first shift was in the morning and I was screening family members and contractors in reception. But it was such a lovely day I stayed on past my shift. It was very relaxed, receptionist Angela was on the front desk and lots of managers were in and we had a little Christmas service – although just before the service began the vicar lost baby Jesus and was running around trying to find it – I did laugh! 

“I must have screened at least 30 people on Christmas day and it was a wonderful introduction to volunteering here. I was also given a Christmas lunch which was great which I ate with Father Christmas! A member of cabin crew was volunteering in the afternoon and she went round the wards with the drinks trolley for patients and their families. 

“One memory I have is when a small child came in to see her grandpa. The staff gave her a present, wrapped in Christmas paper, and it was just lovely to see her little face light up. 

“When the Government relaxed the screening regulations, we weren’t needed any longer, and I was asked to join the kitchen team. So, I thought I’d give it go! I started May of this year. I’m a general pan washer and I put things away – in fact I can often hear my wife in my head saying “I wish you were that tidy when I was around!”  

“The people here are great and although the kitchen is quite hard work physically, I know it helps. I remember the care my dad received when he was here.

“The way he was looked after was fabulous. Although end of life is close, the hospice tries to make the going out as pleasant as possible.  

“Dad was here about a week – we bought him here from Reigate. He was suffering and he said to me “I’ve had enough, I want to go.” When your spirit had had enough it’s time to go. Next thing I knew, he’s in here.  My wife and I were with him when he went. That’s how I would like to go! The choice of spending my last few weeks here or in a hospital – I know where I’d choose. It’s a halfway house to heaven!  

“The effort everyone goes to is incredible. On an evening shift a couple of weeks ago, we had just cleaned away and I was about to head home, when a lady on the ward suddenly requested some chips to eat. So, we got everything out again – because if it brings a smile to someone’s face, nothing is too much trouble. It might have been her last meal.  

“The best thing about volunteering is the feeling of doing something and giving something back. It gets me out the house for three hours every other Sunday and it’s taught me how to wash up properly!  

“I think volunteering here also makes me feel closer to my wife who died in 2015. She was a nurse all her life, so subconsciously seeing the nurses brings me closer to her.  

“If anyone is thinking about volunteering at St Catherine’s, I’d say go for it, 100% – and I’ve already signed up to volunteer on Christmas day again this year – I’m looking forward to meeting Santa again!”