The Hospice of St Francis celebrates its milestone 40th birthday this June, after starting life following a moving Vigil of Prayer at St Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted on 6th June 1979.
To mark the occasion, the Berkhamsted-based charity will be hosting events throughout the summer and beyond, to thank all those people who founded and have sustained the Hospice ever since, inviting those touched by its care to share their stories and precious memories.
The free Hospice was founded by a small group of people – the Originals – led by the incredible Pam Macpherson.
At the time there were only around 40 hospices in the country - hospice care was still a relatively modern phenomenon. But within the first year, the Originals had raised £25,000 through the sale of special notelets and cards made by popular local artist Harry Sheldon, and Snowball Coffee Mornings where guests were asked to contribute 25p towards the fundraising effort and learn about why a free hospice was so important.
By 1980, the money raised paid for the first Hospice of St Francis community nurse. The generosity of local people then, as now, is what sustains the Hospice today.
In the early 80’s, the Hospice found a permanent home at 27 Shrublands Road in Berkhamsted, a convent previously owned by the Franciscan nuns, only moving to its current home at Spring Garden Lane in 2007.Today, the charity reaches more than 2,000 people and their families every year.
Kate Phipps-Wiltshire, Hospice CEO, said, “We are indebted to our Originals whose vision inspired the foundation of our Hospice 40 years ago. Without their faith, sheer hard work and determination, we wouldn’t have the Hospice and its volunteers and staff, that local people can rely on today.
“The stories from those who shaped the Hospice and have been reached by our care are full of passion, laughter and tears. Celebrating this birthday is a huge thank you to local people who’ve helped, year after year, to keep our doors open – and we want to thank you all.”
The Hospice is sharing a full timeline of its decade-by-decade history on its website and in its latest Newsletter and is asking local people to share any stories they may have, particularly of special loved ones, who might have received its care over the past 40 years.
The charity is also celebrating with various events, including an Awareness Day and Prayer Vigil at St Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted on its official birthday, 6th June, (recreating the Prayer Vigil that was the catalyst for its foundation); at its annual Garden Party at Ashridge House on Sunday 23rd June and by holding an Open Afternoon at the Hospice on Sunday 22nd September, featuring live music, taster sessions, children’s activities, tours of the seven-acres gardens (just a brown field site only 15 years ago), and a chance to learn more about the Hospice’s services over tea, prosecco and cake on the lawns.
“In 2019, digital technology holds great potential for us,” added Kate Phipps-Wiltshire, “this year we will pilot a new approach where people can get in touch with us directly for support. Recovery and rehabilitation is as important in what we do now as our essential work at the end of life and through bereavement.
“The Hospice of St Francis is a special place, with people you can rely on, whatever life throws at you. Forty years on, our ethos remains, ‘Your precious life’ on your terms.
“In our 40th year, we want to encourage people to keep supporting us to fortify us for the future. I’ll be doing that on Sunday 7th July when I join supporters to jump out of a plane at our spectacular and very successful Skydive. I want to encourage anyone with a milestone birthday to join me and join us in our celebrations throughout the year.
“If a skydive is not for you, you may prefer to set up a direct debit of 40p a day or £12 a month, to sustain our future - that small change will make a big difference. There are other ways to support us too – by volunteering, joining us at our 40th birthday Ashridge Garden Party or at our Open Afternoon in September. I look forward to meeting you then!”
For more information about the Hospice and it’s next frothy fundraising 5k Bubble Rush Herts in Gadebridge Park, Hemel, on Sunday 12th May, or its new ‘Walk with Us’ on Saturday 29th June, visit www.stfrancis.org.uk . For regular updates, follow the charity on Facebook www.facebook.com/thehospiceofstfrancis/ and Twitter @hospicstfrancis