Caring for people with life threatening illnesses in the Sid Valley
Mr Newby thought there must be many people in Sidmouth willing to raise funds to start a Hospice that would look after patients in the Sidmouth area. After the initial letter was published, an invitation to attend a public meeting was sent to local societies and clubs. The general opinion was that it was worthwhile to get a ’steering committee’ to look into it. Dr Atkinson became Chairman, Mrs Eileen Bird was Secretary and Mrs Eileen Newby was Treasurer. Later a full committee was established with volunteers and Mrs Margaret Huyshe became the first patron.
The Idea of Sidmouth Hospiscare
In February 1984, Mr V Newby wrote to the Sidmouth Herald, after seeing a television programme. He had watched with interest and admiration, about the work of Dr Sheila Cassidy and her devoted staff at St Luke’s Hospice in Plymstock. This small Hospice was opened and run by local effort. It gave help to patients enduring a terminal illness and peace of mind to their relatives. Mr Newby wondered if such a project could be set up in Sidmouth and started with a modest sum in the hope that a benefactor might come forward.
Picture: The official 1998 opening of Keel House, May Terrace, Sidmouth
Left to right, from top: Mrs Betty Sheilds,
Miss Gillian Beatty, Mrs Audrey Recknell,
Mrs Kay Cheeseman, Mrs Eileen Newby,
Mrs Eileen Bird, Mr Michael Welch, Dr Duncan Hall
Many local organisations came forward to offer to make Sidmouth Hospiscare their fund raising project of the year and many local clubs put on events and raised funds for the project. Individuals sold their clothes and gave the money raised and Salcombe Regis gave the proceeds of their fair. The bowling club gave the money from their ‘Bowls Bonanza’ which they thought would be around £250.00 and a kind friend said she would double the amount raised. The ‘Bowls Bonanza’ raised £1,000.00 and the lady kept her word and also gave £1,000.00. The money kept coming in and Sidmouth people were so generous and supportive which all gave heart to the ‘two Eileens’ to keep going. It was a daunting task as £120,000.00 was needed to fund a nurse for the first few years. They looked towards Macmillan for help who said they would fund a nurse if they were given the money already raised. It was decided that this was not an option as what had been paramount from people’s opinions was that they wanted this money, and the control of the money, to stay in the local area.
The Health Centre supported the move towards a Hospice and offered a small office in their Blackmore base. Exeter Hospiscare offered to take us under their umbrella, Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund decided to fund a nurse for three years, a local printer offered to create all the stationery free of charge and another donor offered to pay for all the postage costs. When Eileen Newby was at a coffee morning once, someone overheard her talking of the plans for Hospiscare, and offered to give some money in memory of her mother who had just died of cancer and had wished that such a service had been available for her mum and for her. Not long afterwards, Eileen was astounded to receive £10,000.00. By September 1985 the process of becoming a Registered Charity was finalised. A board of Trustees was set up with the first Chairman being Dr Atkinson, a local GP.
The First Nurses and Volunters
Mrs Kay Cheesman was the first nurse but left in December 1987. Mrs Mary MacKinnon and Mrs Yvonne Wareham were then employed and were supported by a team of volunteers run by Mrs Christine Crabtree and her deputy Mrs Mavis Browning who would tackle anything that the nurses felt would help the patients and their families. Mr Browning helped with investments of funds and income tax.
Mr & Mrs Griffiths left a sum of money to be specifically used to help those in need when suffering a life threatening illness realising that many people are unable to work and fund their lives as normal. This fund is still in existence and among the ways it has helped patients is to pay for rent, therapies, holidays, telephone bills and school uniforms.
In 1987 Sidmouth Hospiscare was left a house in All Saints Road, Sidmouth, by a Miss Keel. Unfortunately this property was not suitable for the purpose and Sidmouth Hospiscare were advised to sell it. The proceeds enabled them to buy their current property in May Terrace Sidmouth, named after Miss Keel, which is ideally placed opposite the Sidmouth Victoria Hospital and close to Blackmore Health Centre. This is a base for the nurses, the office manager and the volunteer coordinator. There is also a meeting room/lounge for meetings or one-to-one support.
May Terrace Refurbishment
In the summer of 2008 some structural work was needed on the property and the Trustees took the opportunity to have 5 May Terrace refurbished to make it suitable premises for the employees and visitors. Hugo Swire MP attended the opening and also some of the original nurses and Trustees.
Picture: The official opening of the refurbished Keel House, May Terrace, Sidmouth
Left to Right: Dennis Bennett, Mary MacKinnon, Dorothy Reid, Kay Cheeseman,
Hugo Swire MP, Eileen Bird, Michael Welch, Eileen Newby
In 2007 it was felt that there was a great need for an overnight service and in April 2007, three nurses were employed to join the existing one to enable them to provide this service.
Sidmouth Hospiscare Registered Charity Number 1153338
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