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Lisa Story Banner

Grandmother So Proud Of Family’s Allegiance To Hospice Charity

Despite having 12 children and 23 grandchildren, Lisa James throws boundless energy into her busy role managing a the ellenor charity shop.

She said: “Everyone thinks I’m mad but this is my dream job and I love it. I’m doing something I want to do for someone I want to do it for. I’m making a difference.”

Lisa, who began volunteering for ellenor as her children were growing older, became manager at the Northfleet store three years ago and has never looked back.

She admitted: “I had a big family to look after but as they grew up, I had more time and I decided I wanted to give that time to ellenor. I’m quite passionate about it all, maybe a bit obsessive. I thrive on pressure – the more that’s thrown at me the better I perform!”

Lisa, who is 5ft 1in and weighs just seven stone, inspires awe in those around her. She has 12 children, three of them adopted, who in turn have had their own children. The whole family support her work for ellenor and regularly get involved themselves.

She has always been filled with admiration for the charity, especially as one of her best friends and several of her children’s aunts and uncles were patients in the hospice. Recently two of her very young grandsons took part in a car pulling contest and raised £3,000 for the charity.

“They were brilliant,” said Lisa. “It was one of the proudest days of my life.”

The boys, Teddy, three, and Nathan, two, had originally planned to take part in ellenor’s mini marathon, but when it was cancelled Lisa took matters into her own hands. She contacted close family friend Sean Kennedy, who owns Reps and Sets Gym in Gravesend and has been a regular fundraiser for ellenor.

She said: “I had already raised £500 in sponsorship from shop customers, and I knew Sean also had £100 waiting there for the boys, so I phoned him up and asked what he could do to save the day.”

Sean sprang into action organising a car pulling contest outside the gym for the two youngsters and, thanks to social media, it captured the heart of the whole community.

Lisa said: “People were following us around in their cars to give us money and one lovely lady drove round and round to find us from the other side of town to make a donation. There must have been about 30 who came along to watch. What a way to bring the community together!

“My sons all love bodybuilding and my husband Lee goes to the gym every day. Teddy and Nathan obviously had to do some training for the car pull and it was all done very professionally. You could see Nathan’s little legs buckling though.”

Gym owner Sean, a professional Strong Man, said: “Lisa has been involved in my life since I was 14 and I call her my aunty. What she does is fantastic. I do my little bit putting on competitions and events to help her out. Once she’s done one, she is planning another one. Lisa is all about giving and you can’t say that about many people these days.”

Before the covid restrictions, Lisa also organised a fundraising barbecue at the Milton Ale Shades pub in Gravesend, where amazingly she finds time to work three nights a week.

All Lisa’s family and ‘adopted family’ get involved in fundraising for ellenor. Her daughter Skye is also an ellenor shop manager and will be heading up the Dartford store in the New Year.

Lisa said: “Because ellenor means so much to me, it means so much to them. We even had a leak in the shop a while ago, honestly it was like Niagara Falls, and my son, who is a roofer, came out to fix it.

“They will all do anything for ellenor. They have their moments, like every family, but I’m really proud of what they do. One of my boys even got whacked during a charity boxing match for ellenor!

“The way I see it is that we are looking after families so it’s really important that my own family should be involved.”

The first time Lisa went into the ellenor hospice she was impressed by what was on offer to patients and their families and heartened by the homely atmosphere.

She said: “ I used to work in homes for the elderly, but the hospice wasn’t anything like that; it was amazing. I think there was a music therapy class going on at the time. The hospice is not about people dying. It is about living; making the most of the time they have left. It works and it works very well.”

The charity must raise £7m every year to provide its services and thanks to the dedication of Lisa and her team of volunteers, ellenor’s Northfleet shop takes £500-600 a day. They are all looking forward to getting more involved with fundraising again once the pandemic has eased.

Lisa said: “Covid has been horrific for families, especially with them not being able to be with their loved ones in hospital. It’s the simple things that people take for granted and I think when we are back to normal people will see things in a different light. The pandemic has put everything into perspective.

“Lots of people come into the shop just for a chat. That’s good because that’s what ellenor stands for. We are here to help.

“The volunteers are amazing. You can ring them any time 24/7 and they will be there. That’s dedication. Sometimes they will work seven days a week – we never have to find stand-ins when I go on holiday. They are like an army – ready to move at any time to any place for ellenor. I must be the luckiest manager in the whole organisation.”