Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall volunteer celebrates 30 years of service at hospice

A volunteer who has raised thousands of pounds for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall is celebrating 30 years of service at the hospice.

Judy Francis
Judy Francis

Judy Francis has been volunteering at the hospice since 1991 - the year it was opened by the charity’s founder, Lady Sue Ryder, to care for people in the city and surrounding area.

As well as organising her fabulous foodie fundraisers, dedicated Judy, from Barnack near Stamford, has held many other volunteering roles at the hospice. These include serving meals and drinks to patients, and transporting medicines.

Judy said: “I visited the hospice a couple of weeks before it opened its doors to patients. They were appealing for volunteers but I couldn’t commit to the roles they were looking to fill, such as answering the telephone, as I was self-employed and busy running a business.

“Someone suggested an idea to raise funds – a luncheon club – and one or two people put their names down. So I started organising a lunch for the following autumn. With the help of friends in the village of Wansford where I lived, we put on a cold lunch of grapefruit, quiche and gateaux for about forty people. Lady Victoria Leatham from Burghley House was our very first speaker.”

Judy’s luncheon club proved to be a great success. In the years that followed, it went from strength-to-strength with a growing membership of people coming together for regular lunches and to raise vital funds for the hospice.

Some years later, enterprising Judy switched to running afternoon teas. They proved to be just as popular with people enjoying tasty sandwiches, homemade cakes and cups of tea.

Judy’s support hasn’t stopped there. Over the past 30 years she has also contributed to other fundraising activities such as fetes and sales - “anything that was needed,” she said.

She also did a hair-raising parachute jump about five years ago, which raised over £4,000 for the hospice.

Judy cites one of her many highlights as being part of an appeal committee which fundraised for a purpose-built inpatient unit, which opened to patients in 2015.

Judy even scooped a Volunteer of the Year award for her valued contribution to Sue Ryder, which saw her attend a presentation at the Speaker’s House at Parliament in 2014.

She said: “I’m a people person and I enjoy the camaraderie. My husband, who I lost in 2001, always encouraged me with the work I was doing at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice. I’ve always felt it was a worthy cause. I haven’t fundraised single-handedly – I have had people’s kind support, from friends to people who live in my village. Sue Ryder has a wonderful name and I have found that people want to help. You never know when you or someone you know might need Sue Ryder’s services.”

As well as raising money, Judy has helped dispel people’s myths and pre-conceptions about hospices.

“When I first started volunteering, we were busy spreading the word that Thorpe Hall wasn’t that awful place where people went to die,” she remembered. “Actually, the hospice has a lovely, friendly atmosphere. The staff provide compassionate palliative care and give people the best quality of life possible. A large part of it is focussing on managing any pain and controlling symptoms.

“The team work so hard to look after the patients in their care; anything they can do, they will do it. I have been so lucky to have been involved with lots of wonderful things, from cakes and balloons to celebrate patients’ birthdays, to pulling out all the stops to help arrange weddings with only a day or two’s notice.”

Judy added: “Over the years, a number of my friends have been cared for by the hospice and the quality of the care has always impressed me.”

Allison Mann, Service Director at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, said: “Thank you for everything you have done Judy, from all of us at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice. Over the past 30 years you have given up your time, knowledge and skills to volunteer and help raise vital funds. We really appreciate how you do everything with a smile and bring lots of positivity and energy. Your incredible contribution has made a real difference – without your support we wouldn’t be able to be there when it matters for our patients and their loved ones.”

Martin Russell, Head of Operations at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, added: “It is always a pleasure to work alongside Judy. Her enthusiasm and sheer determination to continuously raise essential funds for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice is remarkable. Judy always gives 100% and never fails to impress with her ideas, enthusiasm and energy. Judy is a very special person and we at Thorpe Hall are very lucky to have her working alongside supporting us.”

Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice is calling out for volunteers for a variety of roles, including volunteer gardeners to help maintain its grounds and gardens. The hospice is also looking for volunteers for its virtual day services programme and ward support volunteers for its specialist inpatient unit. To find out more, please contact Tina Parkinson, Volunteer Engagement Lead, on 01733 225 927 or [email protected]

You can also find out more about volunteering at Sue Ryder at