Volunteer Jill Kempster was thrilled to be invited to the first ever garden party hosted by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, recognising her hard work and dedication to the hospice sector.
The endless time and love she has dedicated to ellenor, its patients and their families impressed her colleagues there so much that they nominated her for the unforgettable day out.
Always humble and unaware of how she has touched so many hearts, Jill said: “I just thought why me? There are hundreds of people working in hospices and caring for people.”
The special invitation was a great opportunity for Jill to treat herself. She took some time out of her caring roles at the hospice and as grandmother to 32 and great grandmother to 13, to do some shopping at Bluewater.
She said: “I was 70 a couple of weeks before, so I was given a lot of vouchers. I bought a lovely royal blue lace dress and a pink fascinator and handbag!”
Jill and her daughter Kelly, who accompanied her on the trip, were buzzing with excitement from when they stepped into a taxi outside Jill’s house in Dartford.
“Getting onto the train, arriving at The Mall and then seeing everyone dressed up and looking glamorous was amazing,” said Jill. “We were standing in the grounds of Buckingham Palace and watching members of the Royal Family coming down the steps to greet people. King Charles stood right in front of me – it was exhilarating. He touched my hand and said he hoped we had not been waiting too long.”
Jill and Kelly also mingled with Queen Camilla and Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex – as well as American singer/songwriter Lionel Ritchie. It will be a day she will always cherish, and she has framed the replica of the invitation she was given by the palace as a memento.
It is an invitation that would never have come her way if it wasn’t for her decision five years ago to sign up as a ward volunteer at ellenor’s hospice in Northfleet.
She said: “ellenor has brought new meaning to my life and I feel like I am making a real difference. A true win-win situation!”
Jill, previously assistant cook at Crown woods School in Eltham, first became involved with ellenor in 2016 when the hospice helped her care for her second husband Mick in his final days at home. Over a period of 10 years Mick had suffered three different cancers, a stroke and had the early signs of dementia.
She said: “It wasn’t until the ellenor nurses came out to us that I realised how much sleep I was missing, they looked after him while I went to bed, knowing he was in safe hands.”
After Mick’s death, Jill had bereavement counselling and then joined the charity’s bereavement groups, where she found solace and friendship.
She said: “Before long, I started to feel a bit better and wanted to give something back for all the care I had received.”