The Hospice of St Francis has been celebrating its milestone 40th birthday during 2019, after starting life following a moving Vigil of Prayer at St Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted on June 6, 1979.
To mark the occasion, the Berkhamsted-based charity has been hosting many events throughout the summer and beyond, to thank all those people who founded and have sustained the Hospice ever since, inviting those touched by its care to share their stories and precious memories.
The free Hospice was founded by a small group of people – the Originals – led by the formidable Pam Macpherson.
At the time there were only around 40 hospices in the country – hospice care was still a relatively modern phenomenon. But within the first year, the Originals had raised £25,000 through the sale of special notelets and cards made by popular local artist Harry Sheldon, and Snowball Coffee Mornings where guests were asked to contribute 25p towards the fundraising effort and learn about why a free hospice was so important.
By 1980, the money raised paid for the first Hospice of St Francis community nurse. The generosity of local people then, as now, is what sustains the Hospice today.
In the early 80s, the Hospice found a permanent home at 27 Shrublands Road in Berkhamsted, a convent previously owned by the Franciscan nuns, only moving to its current home at Spring Garden Lane in 2007. Today, the charity reaches more than 2,000 people and their families every year.
Kate Phipps-Wiltshire, Hospice CEO, said, “We are indebted to our Originals whose vision inspired the foundation of our Hospice 40 years ago. Without their faith, sheer hard work and determination, we wouldn’t have the Hospice and its volunteers and staff, that local people can rely on today.
“The stories from those who shaped the Hospice and have been reached by our care are full of passion, laughter and tears. Celebrating this birthday is a huge thank you to local people who’ve helped, year after year, to keep our doors open – and we want to thank you all.”
The Hospice has shared a full timeline of its decade-by-decade history on its website and is asking local people to share any stories they may have, particularly of special loved ones, who may have received its care over the past 40 years.
The charity has been celebrating with various events throughout the year. In June, an Awareness Day in Berkhamsted provided the perfect backdrop for the recreation of its founding Prayer Vigil at St Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted on its official birthday June 6. This was celebrated by over 40 faith groups throughout its catchment.
Over 5,000 people enjoyed its annual Garden Party at Ashridge House on June 23, raising a record £50k. Walk With Us, a new take on its Midnight Walk, and its Children’s Summer BBQ saw the mercury rise to 34 degrees, while 26 thrill-seekers leapt from 13,000ft to raise over £20,000 for the charity at its Anniversary Skydive.
Hospice CEO, Kate Phipps-Wiltshire, who was one of the 26 skydivers, said, “Thank you to everyone who has supported us this summer at our anniversary events and made them so memorable and everyone who has supported us over the past 40 years.
“By celebrating this birthday, we are saying a huge thank you to people near and far who’ve helped, year after year, to keep our doors open.
“The Hospice of St Francis is a special place, with people you can rely on, whatever life throws at you. Forty years on, our ethos remains, ‘Your precious life’ on your terms.
“In 2019, digital technology holds great potential for us. We are piloting a new approach where people can get in touch with us directly for support. Recovery and rehabilitation is as important as our essential work at the end of life and through bereavement.
“Or why not set up a direct debit of 40p a day or £12 a month, to sustain our future? That small change will make a big difference pr you can support us in other ways – by volunteering or joining us at our upcoming events.”
There is plenty more to come this Autumn, including its Open Afternoon at the Hospice on Sunday, September 22, featuring live music, stalls, tours of the seven-acres gardens, storytelling with Book Trust Reading Champion and local author Pete Johnson and a chance to learn more about the Hospice’s services over tea, prosecco and cake on the lawns.
Its ‘40 Years of Fashion’ Show on September 25 and Wedding Dress Ball on September 28 both take place at Shendish Manor in Apsley and the stunning grounds of Ashridge House provide the setting for the charity’s legendary Mud Pack Challenge on October 13.
For more information about the Hospice and its upcoming calendar of events, visit www.stfrancis.org.uk