It's the highest honour bestowed to charities, the equivalent of an MBE for voluntary groups, and was announced as part of Her Majesty's birthday honours list
The entire body of volunteers at North Devon Hospice have this week been given the royal seal of approval for their incredible contribution to the community, having been named in Her Majesty’s Birthday Honours list as recipients of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
The Office of the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, the Queen’s representative in the county, says that the award is the highest honour for volunteer groups, setting the benchmark for excellence in volunteering, and is equivalent to an MBE. It recognises outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers who regularly devote their time to improving quality of life in their community.
Stephen Roberts, Chief Executive of North Devon Hospice said: “I am bursting with pride that the volunteers of North Devon Hospice have been recognised in this way. There’s not a single part hospice life that has not been supported by a volunteer, throughout our 36-year history of caring for local people. In so doing, each and every one of them are making an impact on someone’s life at a time when they need all the support they can get. I could not think of a more fitting way for this impact to be recognised than the Queen’s Voluntary Award”.
The honour comes at a time when so many of North Devon Hospice’s volunteers are itching to return to their duties, as soon as it is safe to do so. This includes people like Brian and Mary Aicheler, a husband and wife duo who both volunteer their time for the hospice.
“I miss everyone at The Long House,” says Brian, who is a volunteer complementary therapist at the hospice’s outreach centre in Holsworthy. “I hope it’s not too long before I can go back. I really miss helping people. I keep thinking about the patients and how they are getting on.”
This dedication is echoed by Brian’s wife Mary, who volunteers in North Devon Hospice’s charity furniture centre in Holsworthy. “We all like to feel helpful and when you can’t it’s frustrating. While the hospice shops are closed I’ve been doing my bit by shopping on Amazon Smile, so part of the proceeds go to the hospice. But when this is all over I’m most looking forward to getting back to the hospice furniture centre.”
Sue Friend, who co-ordinates volunteering at North Devon Hospice said she was over-the-moon to hear they had been recognised with the highest honour in the land. “Our volunteers are an incredibly special group. We have over 500 volunteers supporting us and the dedication shown by each individual bowls me over on a daily basis. They make an enormous difference to the lives of local people and quite simply there would be no hospice care in North Devon without them.”
Sue said that it has been heart-warming to keep in touch with the volunteer team throughout the recent restrictions, to hear how eager they all are to return to action. “We’ve been so grateful that some of our volunteers have been able to continue their duties in the last few months, such as our volunteer counsellors who have been able to provide support to local people over the phone. But of course, for safety reasons many volunteer roles are unable to be carried out right now. We hope that changes soon, because it is a sign of their incredible commitment to the hospice that they are all so eager to return and help out. This is why our team of volunteers fully deserve to be honoured in this way.”
While the hospice has been able to maintain its care services throughout the recent restrictions, Stephen Roberts says that volunteers will be vital in helping the hospice recover in the future. “Our volunteers help out in literally every facet of hospice life, so it is a struggle to operate without so many of them right now. For example, a huge number help out with our fundraising activities and in our charity shops, all of which have suffered recently. It will take a monumental effort from across the community for us to come out the other side of this, but I am so encouraged by the fact we have one of the best volunteer teams in the country to help that happen. Each volunteer cares so deeply for the patients and families we support. That is why they have been honoured in such a way, and that is why I know they will do everything they can to help North Devon Hospice pull through these tough times.”
For more information about how your time can help North Devon Hospice, please visit the volunteering pages on this website. Thank you.
We rely on an army of over 500 volunteers. They are involved in every facet of what we do and we wouldn't be able to continue offering outstanding care and support to our patients and their families across North Devon without them. Every hour donated really make a difference.