AS it reaches its monumental 25th anniversary, staff and volunteers have reflected on the progress made by Barnsley Hospice - an institution that ‘Barnsley should be proud of’.

“People still think it’s a place for dying, but it’s the opposite - it’s a place to live,” said chief executive Julie Ferry.

Julie, alongside deputy chief executive and finance director Ian Muffett, has been leading the hospice for four years.

She says in that time she has seen big changes - not only in the running of the charity, but also in its role in the community.

Forming strong links with the community - which has raised more than £9m for the hospice - has been a key aim for Julie and her four-strong management team alongside Ian, consultant Rachel Vedder and patient services director Jan Walker.

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“People are still uncertain what a hospice is, it’s still a taboo subject in some areas,” said Julie.

“Patients are at the centre of everything we do. We’ve tried to make it more homely and welcoming in the four years we’ve been here, and just do our best for people.

“Barnsley Hospice came from a few people just wanting to look after people in their final days, and look where it is now - shops, warehouses and fundraisers all over town. It’s an institution and something Barnsley should be proud of.”

The idea for the hospice came to Wombwell GP Dr Sarala Mahatme and her husband Sharad in 1984, who gained support from local businessman Alan Sherriff, and Barnsley Council, which donated the site on Church Street where the hospice remains today.

Following an appeal launched by Barnsley Chronicle editor Don Booker and a substantial legacy being left, St Peter’s Hospice was opened in 1994.

In 2000, following a £862,000 National Lottery grant, the recently-renovated inpatient unit was built and provided eight beds for patients, and the following year the hospice was rebranded as Barnsley Hospice.

The support immediately garnered for the hospice was indicative of how passionate Barnsley people were for the idea - and the campaign was helped along by a number of high-profile supporters, including former cricket umpire Dickie Bird.

Dickie, 86, had a time where ‘things didn’t look too good’ earlier this year as he had a prostate cancer scare - and while he admits he was lucky, he said having the hospice in the town provided some reassurance should the worst happen.

“I have been a big supporter over the years,” said Dickie, who has been a regular campaigner and speaker at hospice dinners and functions.

“It’s fantastic to see it’s now really on its feet, it really is a tremendous cause.

“It saves lives, not only for the people in there but it’s also done so much for the town.

“I hope it can keep going forever and I ask Barnsley people to keep supporting it as I know they can.”

The hospice will be holding an open day at 11am to 3pm on Sunday, where everyone is invited to take part in the 25th anniversary celebrations.

Read more about the hospice’s history in a special supplement printed in the Barnsley Chronicle, Friday, June 21

Volunteers and fund-raisers keep treasured hospice running

FORMED by a small group of committed volunteers, the hospice today remains founded on the hard work of people who offer up their free time.

Last year volunteers dedicated more than 30,000 hours to Barnsley Hospice - and chief executive Julie Ferry said the hospice’s success was a team effort down to everyone from staff to fundraisers and other volunteers that keep the service running.

“I’m very much a team player and we all complement each other here,” said Julie, a former Macmillan nurse who uses her nursing background to inform her leadership.

“Being a nurse I’ve seen patients right through the stages of care. Ian (Muffett, deputy chief executive and finance director) will come in with a more financial point of view, asking whether can we do anything differently to save money.

“And we rely heavily on our volunteers. We always need more. We took in 220 patients last year, but that’s not much across Barnsley. We have engaged a lot more with the community over the last few years, our community fundraisers are out there talking to people, but we need that continued growth.”

Christine Brannan, 70, has been volunteering on switchboard and reception duties for seven years, and can often be the first face people see as they walk through the doors of the Church Street site.

“I knew I wanted to give something back,” said Christine, from Barnsley. “But I didn’t know how good this would be for me in terms of meeting new people and making friends.

“In seven years it’s moved on so much in terms of the building and new technology, and that’s down to the fundraising from Barnsley people. It’s so badly needed and so obviously appreciated by people.”

Carol Wood, 74, is a fundraising officer who says her role covers ‘all the jobs full-time staff don’t have time to do’ - organising bag packs in supermarkets, taking part in fundraisers including the hospice’s ‘bubble rush’ event in Locke Park and selling raffle tickets.

“I was just determined not to sit about when I retired,” said Carol, from Staincross, who has been in the role for five years.

“I wanted to do something and you can give as little or as much time as you want.

“It’s such a great place to work and does such wonderful things. People know how kind the staff are and how much dignity people are dealt with.

“It really is the one and only and we’ve found Barnsley folk are so generous - every penny really does help.”