What's it like to volunteer at Martin House?

02 June 2020

In January 1982, my wife moved to a teaching post at a local primary school. The following February, the school organised a Shrove Tuesday Social to raise money for Martin House and being an evening event, I accompanied her to the social. During the evening I asked the vicar of the local parish and chair of school governors what Martin House was. He explained to me that a committee had been formed to raise money to build a hospice for children and when built, it would be called Martin House. Being attracted to the proposal, I initiated some fundraising at the school where I was teaching.
At that time, the fundraising was being administered from the back room of a shoe shop in Boston Spa High Street and this is where I took the first sum we raised. Other larger events were being organised - one I remember attending was a cooking demonstration by the Cooking Canon in the Riley-Smith Hall in Tadcaster. Gradually, various ‘Martin House’ goods became available, including Christmas cards, sweatshirts, etc. We sold these at school and at fundraising events held at our home.
The fundraising headquarters moved to other larger premises as these became necessary and made available. Eventually, when sufficient funds were available and planning permission had been obtained, building work began at the site off Grove Road in Clifford. I can remember after one event taking a group of children from my school to deliver the money and then going on to have a look at the building progress, not much further on than the foundations.
Once the hospice was completed and ready for use, several open days were arranged to enable people who had been involved in fundraising to have a tour of the premises. When I went, I took my mother and we were given a tour of the hospice by Robin, who had been appointed chef, and who gave us a very comprehensive and informative account of the building and how it would be used. Not long afterwards, my mother amended her will to benefit Martin House.
My mother died in January 1989 and I visited Martin House to deliver a cheque from her estate. Having also recently taken advantage of an offer of premature retirement, I indicated that I would be interested in helping at Martin House as a volunteer. I was quickly ushered into the office of the then administrator, he asked a few questions and promptly asked when I could start. As my wife was still teaching part-time and doing a full day on Mondays, I agreed to do a full day at Martin House on Mondays.
At that time, I just did anything required, provided it was within my capabilities; but mainly it was assisting Peter who was the maintenance ‘person’ at that time. I believe I was the first male volunteer. At that time there were only two children’s hospices in the country, which meant fundraising could be spread over a very wide area. One method for fundraising and publicity was to take a caravan to lots of events and being a keen caravaner, I was soon involved in taking and setting up the caravan and awning and bringing it back.

Less than a year after I had started at Martin House, my friend Chris was diagnosed with epilepsy and lost his driving licence. Being self employed with a hire car business, this was a major setback to him. He was obviously very distressed and dejected by the situation and I suggested to him that he might like to join me as a volunteer, especially assisting with the caravan work. Chris was very quickly involved and he and I became regular Monday people around the hospice. We were often referred to by a variety of names, the B Team, Double Act, etc.
Unfortunately in 2009 I developed a problem in my right knee which greatly restricted my ability to perform physically demanding tasks. However, after surgery, I was able to obtain a ‘transfer’ and join the fundraising department. Here I assist with addition of data to the computer system, mainly relating to new donors and Gift Aid details, together with acknowledgement letters for donations,
Volunteering is not exclusively about giving, I receive a great deal in return. I really appreciate the opportunity to meet and enjoy the camaraderie of other people from many different walks of life and occupations. Whilst at Martin House, I often stop and reflect on how privileged I am to have had the many blessings that I have received throughout my life.