TODAY (Thursday, November 26) marks 30 years since a short letter caught Darlington’s imagination – could the town have its own hospice.

It started with a letter. On November 26 1985, a handwritten request by Yvonne Rowe headlined “Can WE have a hospice”, appeared in The Northern Echo’s former sister paper, the Evening Dispatch.

It was the letter that would give the town the gift of St Teresa’s Hospice – which still stands as a cornerstone of the community 30 years later.

Mrs Rowe, who was nursing her dying friend Mary Hester at the time, wrote: “Sir, I have been reading about the wonderful hospice movement, which cares for the terminally ill and the dying, keeping them happy and free from pain, and giving support to their families.

“When chatting to a group of friends, we all thought how marvellous it would be to have a hospice in Darlington.

“However, we all lack courage and know-how about getting started and wonder if any readers would be interested or have any helpful comments.”

And readers were interested – a packed public meeting held in the Dolphin Centre on February 5 1986 started fundraising schemes and a sitting service to help people at home.

And three decades later, Mrs Rowe is still humbled by what she started. She said: “It’s absolutely amazing. I didn’t expect to see a building for the hospice built in my lifetime.

“The huge response to the letter allowed to us call a meeting, which was met with some adverse comments, but we managed.”

In 1988, Mother Teresa herself wrote: “I am sure the hospice will bring solace to many and I wish it every success and hope that many will come forward to make it a reality.”

And a decade later, St Teresa’s Hospice created an in-patient facility at Woodlands, which is now supported by around 400 volunteers.

Chief executive of St Teresa’s Hospice, Jane Bradshaw, said: “We started because of a community spirit and we keep going because of a community spirit.

“Yvonne still helps us out by doing craft work and she is definitely the catalyst that started all of this.

“The main thing is that the hospice is an independent charity and it’s because of the people of Darlington that we’re still able to continue to do our work.”

To find out about volunteering opportunities or more information on St Teresa’s Hospice, visit or call 01325 254321.