Linda Knox Wells Banner
Linda Knox Wells Banner

Volunteering fulfils Linda’s need to feel useful in retirement

Linda was bored sitting at home and yearned to do something just for her – something fulfilling that would benefit her local community.

That’s why she started volunteering at ellenor, where she now spends one morning a week on the host desk and one afternoon helping out in the clinical admin department.

She said: “I had been caring for my mum and looking after my grandchildren, but I also wanted to do something for myself. After a day at the hospice, I always feel like I have done something useful, or that I have got something moving.

“Once we even managed to get a patient’s wedding brought forward. It was such a good feeling, even though I only played a small part.”

The grandmother, 64, started volunteering in the clinical admin department just before the pandemic, but lockdown put her role on hold. Once the restrictions lifted and she was able to come back to the hospice, she also took up her hot desk role.

She absolutely loves her afternoons at the hospice and is always game for a laugh. She braved an ellenor firewalk two years ago, raising £400 for the charity – she did it six times and was dressed as a green-faced witch! She also sang karaoke at the last Christmas party, helped at Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee celebrations and attended the Gravesham Pride event for ellenor last summer.

Most recently, she was a marshal at the Gurdwara temple during the Sponsored Walkathon in March.

She said: “I wouldn’t say I’m fearless, but I do like to try things. I even did the zipwire at Bluewater. It was a birthday present for myself, but of course I ended up paying for my two teenage grandchildren to come along – we all thought it was great fun. Maybe I’m getting a little bit crazier as I get older.”

Although Linda lives in Wainscott, near Rochester, she is originally from Gravesend, hence her allegiance to the hospice and its services.

She retired early from her demanding job as a chargehand for GlaxoSmithKline in 1999, suffering from burn-out. She was then a single mum to daughter Amy and juggling parenting with very long hours. After stepping back from her career, she found she still wanted to use her brain and be part of the community. So, she volunteered in ellenor’s fundraising office, which was then above KT Coachworks in Gravesend, and later on reception at ellenor’s old offices in Singlewell.

Linda, now 64, is married and has two stepsons with husband Barry, who is also retired. Her daughter Amy is grown-up and married now with three children of her own, Harrison, Scarlet and Isla. Linda loves spending time with them all, but also felt it was important to have her own outlet.

Her ties to ellenor intensified when her uncle Terry was cared for at the hospice for two months before he died in 2017.

She said: “I was coming in and out of the hospice every day to visit him and I thought that I would like to be involved in some way. They were all so good to him, and I loved it there so after that I decided to become a volunteer again.”

Working on the host desk involves meeting and greeting, asking visitors to wash their hands and pointing them in the right direction or taking them to their destination.

Linda said: “We get to know the families of patients on the ward and enjoy welcoming them through the door. Sometimes people come in with money they have raised, and we put them in touch with the fundraising team. It’s always something different. Visitors might want to visit the memory tree so they can remember a loved one, and we can take them over to the tree and maybe make them a cup of coffee. You never know who is going to come through the door. One lady who came in wanted to donate three apples – such a sweetheart!

“Drivers come walking through the hospice taking things here and there to different sites and we get to meet all the staff and other volunteers. I have started going to the monthly ellenor quizzes with other volunteers – it’s nice to meet people who come in on different days.”

During the afternoons Linda spends in clinical admin, she picks up the overflow calls when staff are busy, often flagging patients up to the relevant care staff, dealing with callers with kindness and confidentiality. She also helps to input computer data.

She said: “There are so many different roles in volunteering. I would say to anyone with some spare time to come along and try it. If you don’t enjoy what you choose first time round, there are other roles you could try. No one is saying you must do this, or you must do that. There’s something for everyone – gardening, arts and crafts, anything. Volunteering at ellenor is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It benefits me as much as it benefits ellenor. It’s productive and it’s sociable If I can’t come one week for some reason, I really miss it. It’s good to be doing something positive.”