VOLUNTEERS are vital to the work carried out by Bury Hospice - and the charity is urgently looking to recruit more people.

Volunteers ensure the smooth running of the hospice’s reception as well as its shops and warehouses.

Sam Duncan, retail and volunteer services manager at the hospice, said: “We could not function without our volunteers. They are the lifeblood of Bury Hospice and bring a richness to the organisation.

“People are motivated to volunteer for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s because they knew someone who has been here, or they have recently retired, or even somebody who is out of work and needs a bit of confidence or a chance to build up their skills.

"Quite a few of the shop volunteers have actually gone on to get a job with the hospice.

“We try to match people’s skills and their working career, but sometimes someone might have been a finance director and want to get away from that and do something different.

"We even have some people who just come in and do ad-hoc shifts or help out once a year with things like the Colour Run. There is a role for everybody."

Widow Val Turner, aged 70, is a mother-of-four, grandmother of 12 and great grandma of four but, for 12 years, has found time to spend two days a week volunteering her spare time to Bury Hospice.

She said: “I love doing it, I have made friends for life here. I get such a lot out of it, it keeps me involved and I am never bored.”

She was a psychiatric nurse at Prestwich Hospital and then Hope Hospital, now Salford Royal.

She retired after 40 years and decided to volunteer her spare time to the hospice.

“My daughter’s friend had treatment at the Dumers Lane site, I had helped to look after her at home, and I wanted to do something when I retired.

“I started off in reception and then I moved on to Day Services. I now help out in the in-patient unit, I attend the Remembrance Service to offer support in whatever way I can and I even help out in the kitchen when needed.

“There’s only so much shopping, visiting and cleaning you can do.”

The hospice has several shops throughout the borough, including in Bury town centre on The Rock, and its warehouses are located behind Asda in Radcliffe Industrial Estate.

They have recently set up an eBay shop, operating from the warehouse, and are actively searching for volunteers with IT skills to work in it.

More volunteers are also desperately needed in shops, the kitchen, and in the warehouse, while other areas in which people can volunteer include as a gardener, patient assistance, administrative work, or even just helping out at events.

However, of the 350 people who currently volunteer for the Rochdale Old Road charity, just 20 per cent are male.

One of those is Chris Coates, aged 71, from Unsworth.

Mr Coates previously worked in the construction industry and is now approaching his fifth year volunteering for the hospice as a driver.

He said: “I come in every Wednesday and drive people coming in for day care.

“I actually started for selfish reasons at first. I finished working at 66 and thought ‘well I can’t just sit around’.

“I love the people I meet, they are all great characters and all have a story to tell. It gives me a new challenge.”

So, why does he think that there are so few male volunteers?

“I think that men may have a fear that they will be faced with people who are seriously ill and they will be out of their comfort zone, but I have no training with first aid or anything like that,” he said.

“Don’t be afraid just because you feel you don’t have the skills for the caring sector.

“A lot of people don’t realise what a hospice actually does. Before I started, I had never been to a hospice so I didn’t really know what the atmosphere was going to be like.”

Neil Nelson, aged 58, started volunteering in June, and does one day a week in Day Services, and also helps out with administration.

“Bury Hospice is a great organisation. I have lived in the Bury area all my life and saw the work that they do.

“I came here and the atmosphere was not what I thought it was going to be.”

“It is very rewarding. What makes it so special is the people. The care and concern that everybody has for patients is second to none.”

Ms Duncan added: “Perhaps men may need a bit more of a push to get involved than women, but the male patients like to see another male face around.”

The hospice's diverse team of volunteers includes former construction workers, nurses, a dentist, a solicitor, and an accountant.

Diane Manship, aged 65, is a former languages teacher at Tottington High School, who has volunteered at the Hospice for the past five years.

Mrs Manship does a three-hour shift as a receptionist on a Tuesday morning, as well as picking up collection boxes from pubs, shops and offices around the borough.

She said: “I started after I had retired because I wanted to do something. It sounds clichéd that you want to put something back into the community but I suppose I did. I really enjoy it and I’ve met lots of friends.”

Working alongside her on reception is Janet Hargreaves, who is now into her second decade with the hospice.

She said: “I didn’t know anybody that had been in the hospice but I just wanted to give something back. 

“Everybody takes something from life, but not everybody thinks about giving something back. This was my way of doing it.”

To find out about volunteering for the hospice, contact samduncan@buryhospice.org.uk.