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Jeanette S Banner

Homemade Masks Boost Hospice Funds

Jeanette Spurin, of hospice charity ellenor, was so upset by the number of disposable masks she saw abandoned in car parks and along roadsides during the pandemic that she decided to put her sewing skills to good use.

She said: “Making masks for ellenor kept me sane through lockdown. I just felt like I was making a difference. I was going into the hospice all the time to pick up the mail and I would see loads of disposable masks on the floor in the Morrisons car park across the road, which used to enrage me.

“I found a template for a washable mask online and first of all I made them for a friend, who sold them at her work in London, with the profits going to ellenor. Then I thought, why not sell them at the hospice itself? So far, they have raised £1025.70.”

All the money has gone to ellenor, where Jeanette works in the Finance Department. Materials for the project are funded from her own pocket and the masks are now popular items on the donation table at the Gravesend hospice.

"Until now, my machine had really just been used for sewing things like silly tutus to do the ellenor charity walks – I’m not really that good on the machine!”

Jeanette lives in Hartley with husband Barry, an engineer for Hovis, and son Liam, 25. Barry has often taken part in ellenor’s annual Twilight Walk with Jeanette, but she likes to take her fundraising to a whole new level. She has done the Walkathon for ellenor which is from Tower Bridge in London to the hospice, and she also raised money for Cancer Research by taking part in their Shine Night Walk.

She said: “None of this fundraising really happened until I started working for ellenor. In fact, some of the material I recently bought for the masks has a poppy design, so I have decided to sell those in aid of the Royal British Legion.”

Jeanette started at ellenor as a volunteer, following in the footsteps of mum Linda, who volunteered in the hospice cafe. After two years in a non-paid role, Jeanette joined the staff in 2016 and now works four days a week as Senior Finance Administrator.

She said: “My background was in finance, first as a credit controller for a cheese company, then I worked for a firm selling spectacles, where I was part of the management team. When I was made redundant from there, it felt really hard, especially as I wasn’t expecting it. I tried to find other work, but I had lost all my confidence, so I volunteered for Oxfam in New Ash Green.

“Through this I got my confidence back and applied for a volunteering role at ellenor. I carried on volunteering at Oxfam for a few years after I started at ellenor. To be honest, my volunteering roles saved my sanity.


“I think it’s the case with a lot of the volunteers that they get just as much, if not more, out of their volunteering role, as they give to the charity.”

Jeanette, who did not have any official training in finance before joining ellenor, now has her Level Two qualification in Bookkeeping, and plans to embark on Level Three now Covid restrictions have been lifted.

She said: “During lockdown I wasn’t able to see my mum for a while because I was picking up post from the hospice and I didn’t want to put her in danger or put patients at risk.

“Because of the pandemic I work from home for part of the week, which is good because I see more of Barry, as he works shifts. But since the restrictions have lifted it’s been nice to see people at the hospice and be with them again. We have been limited as to the amount of people we can have in each room, but the office at the hospice is covered five days a week.”

Fundraising for ellenor has been tough during the pandemic, with many of the usual events cancelled or severely restricted -- and the charity’s shops closed during lockdown. The charity, which takes a holistic approach to helping patients and their families across Kent and Bexley who are facing life-limiting illness, must find £7m a year. This funds its hospice, care for in-patients and outpatients, its Wellbeing Department, and numerous services in the community for people of all ages. Working in the finance department, Jeanette has been at the sharp end throughout.

She said: “You need an amazing amount of resources to allow everyone to work from home, but in some ways it has been a good experience. I used to be at the photocopier all the time, but you can’t do that at home. Everything is electronic now. It was something I always fought against as I like a bit of paper, but now I realise we really don’t need all this paper – so progress has definitely been made.

“Before working for ellenor, I had always been in the manufacturing industry. Working for a charity is so different. People are so much more generous and giving. When you have done a good job, nine times out of ten you will be told how well you have done, and that means so much.”