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Facilities Department Works As One Caring Body

A myriad of invaluable services come under the Facilities umbrella at  ellenor -- everything from its fleet of vehicles to laundry and good nutrition.

Facilities Manager Dan Parzefall ensures all four departments run smoothly, with both staff and volunteers taking real pride in their tasks and responsibilities. Catering, Housekeeping, Facilities and Front of House are all vital to the running of the organisation.

Dan says: “I’m so proud of the team – working relentlessly behind the scenes to ensure everything is safe and clean. It’s all about one body, looking after people, helping and serving.”

We are particularly proud of its catering department, which was recently awarded the top level five rating by food safety and hygiene inspectors – for the tenth year running.

Dan says: “We make sure we provide the best service and ensure everything is cooked safely and that we serve the highest quality food to patients, staff and relatives. Everything you would expect when you walk into a shop or café is in place, and we have very high standards. Good nutrition is fundamental.

“When patients come to us, they are often adjusting to a new place and when they are coming to the end of their life, we can talk to them and understand what they may think will interest them from a culinary perspective. We can often find though close conversations, favourite foods or perhaps a particular food they haven’t had for a long time, or since they were children. It is nice to have the chance to cook something that can provoke happy thoughts from the past. Food can be very helpful with this.

“Our kitchen staff all have that human touch. You can teach anyone to cook but you can’t teach a chef to care or to show empathy.”

Staff in the Housekeeping department also have a caring nature, which has been demonstrated admirably during the challenges of Covid.

Dan says: “This department is paramount to everything working and being safe. It’s not just someone going round with a vacuum – it’s everything from deep cleaning rooms to doing patients’ personal laundry, offices and all those hidden nooks and crannies. During Covid everything has stepped up a notch further, with things like doorknobs and phones sanitised twice a day.

“Like nurses, the housekeepers go into people’s rooms and work around the patients. They wear PPE like a nurse. During the summer of 2020, the temperatures reached 34-35 degrees and they didn’t even complain.”

All four departments under Facilities have had also had to adjust to the restrictions brought about by the pandemic.

Dan says: “Our maintenance sub department is a one stop shop for anything that needs to be replaced or repaired, that includes in the main hospice building, the shops, offices and our vehicles. Everything must be kept in good working order – even when it is not being used, for instance while the shops have been closed.”

Also, under the Facilities umbrella is Front of House. Before the pandemic, this area had been revamped, with the formality of the reception desk abolished. Instead, volunteers were trained to act as hosts, meeting and greeting visitors and taking them to their port of call within the hospice. The same volunteers would also help run the café.

Dan says: “It was a much more helpful environment for visitors, and good for their overall wellbeing and we hope it will be adopted again as soon as Covid restrictions are lifted and it is safe.

“The Front of House volunteers have become such good hosts, good gauges of people, seeing when someone wants to be approached. A visitor might want someone to talk to or a cup of tea.

“These volunteers have an empathetic streak, and they are itching to get back to normality as soon as they can.”

One thing the four departments of Facilities have in common is that they would find it impossible to function without our army of kind volunteers.

Dan says: “There are 15 staff – five in the kitchen, four cleaners and five in facilities – but 54 people working in Facilities are volunteers. They are absolutely fundamental, and we could not operate without them. I don’t take them for granted and I love them all.”

And it is not just the volunteers that keep the organisation afloat. The generosity of local shops and businesses also plays a big part.

Dan says: “We are part of an online system called Neighbourly. It’s where local shops and supermarkets, like Marks and Spencer at Bluewater for instance, post every day what they have spare for charities. We receive a text every evening saying what is available for us to collect and our volunteer driver goes out to pick it up. We are also lucky to have Morrisons across the road from the hospice. They support us a lot and often bring over food and supplies.”

Members of the Gurdwara temple in Gravesend have also showered the hospice with their generosity, providing meals for nurses at the peak of the pandemic last year, and recently bringing in trays of fresh samosas for the staff.

Dan says: “It is great that the Gurdwara has connected with us in this way and we are keen to have more involvement from organisations like this as we move forward. ellenor plays an important role in the community and it is great to feel appreciated and to receive support for all the services we provide.”