In a new series, we bring you monthly updates from the Chief Executive of Butterwick Hospice Care, Debbie Jones

WELCOME to the first instalment of Debbie’s Diary – and a very Happy New Year.

In this monthly bulletin, I’ll be keeping you up to date with developments at Butterwick Hospice Care and recording my thanks to all those who play their part in this amazing charity.

I’d like to begin 2020 with a thank you to the lovely volunteers in our 12 retail shops – and to appeal for more support in that vital area of our operation. We have 471 volunteers in all and half of those are in retail.

Just before Christmas, I love to go around the shops and visit the volunteers to thank them personally. They’ve always got stories to tell and they’re so committed – it really is uplifting.

But I was really struck this time by the urgent need to supplement their numbers with fresh blood.

Volunteering for a hospice is a great opportunity for young people who are looking to enrich their CVs and develop transferable people skills. So please think of us if you want to gain invaluable experience and make a difference at the same time.

I had to laugh when I was talking to the manager in the Darlington shop and a volunteer, who didn’t know me, came up as asked if I could spare a few hours as a volunteer. It’s that type of enthusiasm that we need!

CHRISTMAS already seems a distant memory, but it would be remiss of me not to thank the army of fundraisers who turned out for our festive events.

As always, Hardwick Park, at Sedgefield, was a sight to behold with hundreds of people donning their costumes for the Santa Run. What I really love is the way whole families join in – and lots of dogs too.

Our Frozen Winter Trail at Hall Garth Hotel and Country Club, near Darlington, was well supported too, and it was also lovely to see local schools supporting us by staging their own Rudolf Runs.

It all helps get us into the Christmas spirit and bring vital funds into the hospice, so thank you.

WE’VE added an exciting new event to the calendar for 2020 with the Glow Walk taking place in Stockton on March 28. This is a chance to join us for a glowing night, walking either 3k or 6k around Stockton Riverside. There’s a hot sandwich, plus a commemorative medal, and it promises to be a really spectacular sight. You’ll find more details here: https://www.butterwick.org.uk/events/glowwalk2020/

ALSO new for 2020 is the “My One In A Million Black Tie Dinner” at magnificent Wynyard Hall on March 12.

This ties in with our new initiative in which were asking people to tell us about their “One In A Million” – celebrating someone special and making a donation at the same time.

It’s a poignant reflection of our own “One In A Million” – Mary Butterwick, who founded the hospice by selling her own home following the death of her husband John. More than 35 years on, her impact is still being felt, so please remember her while also celebrating your own “One In A Million”.

We’ve had a “One In A Million” video made, with people talking about the special ones in their lives. It’s incredibly powerful and moving, and I’m delighted by how many views it’s had on our Facebook and Linkedin platforms. Please check it out.

It’s also wonderful to see Mowden Park Rugby Club in Darlington backing us by making their home fixture against Canterbury on February 8 a special “My One In A Million” match.

You can find out more here: https://www.butterwick.org.uk/supportus/butterwicksoneinamillion/

WE will also be reflecting on Mary’s precious legacy at our annual Butterwick Hospice Care Thanksgiving Service at Green’s Lane Methodist Church in Hartburn, Stockton, on Sunday January 26.

Music will be provided by the Billingham Silver Band, Singing Sue’s Youth Choir, and Cantabile Choir. The service starts at 3pm and everyone is welcome.

MUCH as I love the festive season, I’m really looking forward to Spring. There’s nothing better than seeing all the crocuses bursting into life.

Our Spring Fayre takes place on March 14, between 11am and 2pm, at our Stockton site in Middlefield Road. There’ll be all kinds of craft stalls, refreshments and a tombola. Entry is free, so come on down.

FINALLY, it’s no secret that we had a challenging time before Christmas with recruitment issues which led to the temporary closure of the children’s unit.

However, I’m delighted to say the unit is back open, with new staff in place, although we still have vacancies for a Junior Sister and a full-time Registered Sick Children’s Nurse.

I’d like to thank the staff at the children’s unit for the way they have responded to the recent closure. It hasn’t been easy, but the time has been used positively with a lot of training taking place and systems being updated. We can now look forward to being able to provide an even better service in 2020.

We are looking forward to a visit by Tees Valley’s elected Mayor, Ben Houchen, in early February and it will be a pleasure to introduce him to the team and show him what a special place Butterwick Hospice is.

Thank you again for all your support and I look forward to keeping you up to date with news of further events and developments as the year unfolds.

Best wishes and thanks for caring, Debbie