Since it was founded, Bury Hospice has relied on the generosity of people to give their money, time or services.

However, the lasting impact of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis has not only financially hit the hospice, but has completely altered the "volunteering interface".

As a result, the hospice is calling for help from younger generations.

The impact of Covid-19 on volunteers

When Jo Johnson started her role as volunteer services coordinator last year, figures showed the hospice had around 480 volunteers, however, the hospice's charity shops were calling out for more helping hands.

Jo began a huge call out which revealed the number of volunteers in the books had almost halved to 243.

She said: “Covid has changed our volunteering interface.

“We lost a few volunteers during the pandemic, some moved out of the area, others are now housebound.

"Many simply didn’t have the confidence to come back.”

She added that some volunteers, who had been with them from the start, have been left "heartbroken" after the pandemic caused a knock to their confidence.

Jo said: “A lot of people are too scared to leave the house and even now, a year on, they are still scared, it is such a shame.

Bury Times: Jo with volunteers on the front deskJo with volunteers on the front desk (Image: Harriet Heywood)

“I feel that Covid has also made others re-evaluate their own lives, people have enjoyed having a bit of time to themselves and I believe that has also changed perceptions."

The hospice has since managed to recruit more than 60 more volunteers into its ranks and hopes to keep that number climbing.

Cost of living crisis

Coming out of the pandemic, the hospice has had to face yet another national crisis.

The cost of living crisis hit the hospice financially but its impact has affected volunteers, many of whom no longer have the time to help.

Jo said: “At the minute it is tough, people are having to take on second jobs.

“Grandparents are becoming nannies because mums and dads are working longer so it is really hard.”

The hospice has around 300 volunteers at the moment and the average age is around 69 years old.

Bury Times: Jo JohnsonJo Johnson (Image: Harriet Heywood)

Jo added: “Volunteering tends to be something retired people do either by helping out in the shops, warehouse, gardening things like that.”

She believes that many do not have enough time to give to the hospice when earning money takes priority.

It is something Jo hopes that the younger generation can help with.

Calls for help from younger generations

Around five to six per cent of volunteers at the hospice are aged between 16 and 21.

It is common for there to be a high turnaround of younger volunteers due to studying for exams, starting jobs and going on to higher education.

However, the hospice is constantly trying to come up with new ideas to interest the age group, with one of the most successful being Jo’s idea to link up with a local college.

She said: “I had the idea to work with Bury College.

“We take on three student nurses each year and they come and work with us for three months on work placement.

Bury Times: Group photo of the art students next to the muralGroup photo of the art students next to the mural (Image: Bury College)

“It is great for us because it is free staff and it is great for them because they can get hands-on, in-person experience on our unit.”

Jo hopes that in the future, the hospice can provide work experience to a range of departments such as bringing students into their finance department.

She added: “We recently had eight art students design a mural and the winning entry was painted by the students on a wall in the hospice which went towards their art exam."

Help has also come from young people like Coronation Street actor, Liam McCheyne, 16, who stars as Dylan Wilson in the popular ITV soap.

Bury Times: The mural painted by the art studentsThe mural painted by the art students (Image: Bury College)

He became the new ambassador for the hospice alongside his twin, Connor, in January last year.

During lockdown, Liam, Connor and their four friends Arthur, Samuel, George and Harvey decided to stay active and challenged themselves by raising funds for the hospice.

Bury Times: Liam McCheyne on the fire walk at Woodbank Cricket ClubLiam McCheyne on the fire walk at Woodbank Cricket Club (Image: Newsquest)

In May 2020, the group began running, walking and cycling 10k every day to raise £2,200 for the charity.

Then in February last year, the twins joined 18 others in walking over a fire to raise money for the hospice, and together, the pair amassed £3,600.75.

They said that they hope their efforts will spread positive news about young people doing good things for the community and encourage others to get involved with the hospice.

Returning Volunteers

Maureen Walker started volunteering at the hospice around two years after her husband died.

She has been lending her help for 12 years, and although she took a "break" during the pandemic to shield, she is back manning the front desk once again.

She said: “My husband died in the old hospice around 14 years ago and I wanted to give a bit of something back because they were so good with him.

“I had a break during Covid for around 12 months because I had to shield but I am back and I enjoy it.”

She added that on top of feeling like she is giving back, it gives her something to do with her day.

Maureen said: “I think this is something you need to do especially if the hospice has affected your life.

Bury Times: Maureen WalkerMaureen Walker (Image: Harriet Heywood)

“Even if it hasn’t, people should come in at least once in their lives because I don’t think they realise what it is like, it isn’t a sad place."

Maureen currently works Mondays from 9am to 12.30pm on the reception desk, answering calls, meeting visitors, and keeping the diary up to date.

She added: "It is full of smiles and laughter, I do encourage everyone to come here and see for themselves". 

Things to come

Jo hopes that the hospice will soon be able to open up patient services again.

This involves volunteers being on hand to take food orders, deliver food and drink, lend an extra hand to nurses or even help patients paint their nails or play games.

Jo said: “We have a lot of people waiting to join us on this.

“We did it pre-Covid but haven’t managed to launch it since the pandemic because lost so many volunteers.

“I’m keen to relaunch and we are excited for what is to come.

“If anyone does want to volunteer with us, all they need to do is get in touch and we can talk about what they would like to do.”