Behind the scenes of ellenor’s Christmas sparkle is the facilities team – working tirelessly in the run-up to the festive period to make it special for patients, families and staff.
Maintenance supervisor Bob Shepherd and his team know how important it is to spread Christmas cheer around the hospice ward, communal areas like The Green, the offices and ellenor’s shops.
He said: “The whole process takes eight to ten weeks from start to finish. Just like the nurses and the doctors, we never stop. It’s 24/7 and it’s a routine we follow every year.”
One of the main attractions is the outdoor tree, a permanent feature outside the hospice all year round – and decorated at Christmas with hundreds of sparkly lights.
Bob said: “It has traditionally always been part of our Lights of Love ceremony, which attracts three to five hundred people. Because of Covid we were not able to invite people last year, but it was very popular virtually, and I’m sure it will be the same again this year. We do everything we can to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for everyone.
We have hundreds of lights and of course everything has to be PAT tested. Unfortunately, we have a fox here who likes to come out at night and chew on the wires!
“We have had a very strange 15 months at the hospice as two of my team members were furloughed until three or four months ago. And of course, we lost people like our volunteer gardeners. Thankfully they are starting to come back in again now.”
Bob, who has worked at ellenor for 13 years, says it’s time to look forward, and plans are already in full swing for this year’s Christmas celebrations.
He said: “At the end of November, we get the decorations and Christmas trees out of storage for staff to put up in their various departments.”
A lovely big tree is donated each year by Springhead Nurseries – and it is the centrepiece inside the hospice, for all to admire on The Green. It takes the facilities team hours to design, decorate and produce the “wow” factor visitors have come to expect.
Bob said: “We put it in a big bucket filled with sand and pea shingle and we decorate it with lights, lots and lots of baubles, as well as little presents for the patients. We also decorate the whole of The Green area with tinsel and hanging baubles.”
And the decorations don’t end there. Many of the patients and their families ask for help decorating their own rooms on the ward, and Bob and his team are always happy to oblige.
He said: “Often they bring in a small tree from home and some decorations and we are always happy to help out. We often get called to patients’ rooms and they are all talking about Christmases they have enjoyed together in the past.
“It’s nice to keep the ward Christmassy – the staff decorate the nurses’ station too.”
Bob and his team will also be clearing the way for a Christmas party for patients on The Green.