THIS week is Hospice Week when thoughts turn to the admirable work being carried out on behalf of hundreds of local residents by Southern Area Hospice Services.
The charity, based in Newry, services the Banbridge area and beyond and many local families have cause to thank both staff and volunteers for the dedicated support and care administered to loved ones suffering from a range of life-limiting illnesses.
These include people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and AIDS - all of whom are treated with care and dignity by specialist Hospice doctors and nursing staff.
With increasing demands on services, fundraising is an integral part of the busy day-to-day schedule and the fundraising department is annually faced with the momentous task of raising two-thirds of Hospice running costs.
According to research, around one in three people in Northern Ireland will develop cancer at some time in their lives and one in four will die from it.
With these startling statistics and increasing operating costs, an ambitious fundraising target of £2.1m was set for 2011 - breaking down to nearly £240 an hour.
“All Hospice services are free of charge and we rely heavily on voluntary donations to continue providing specialist care to those who really need it,” said a spokesperson. “All our services are only possible thanks to the continued support from our volunteers and residents across the Southern Health Board region.”
She said a donation of £50 could buy two hours of specialist nursing care, while £90 can provide a programme of complementary therapies and £130 a range of counselling services.
To help raise vital funds for these and other services, such as medical home visits by Hospice doctors and 24-hour nursing cover, a number of events have been planned throughout the year, with some yet to take place.
Among these is a special ‘Light up a Life’ ceremony at Banbridge Leisure Centre on Thursday, 8th December, starting at 11am. It is one of a number taking place across the Southern area whereby families can purchase a candle to commemorate and remember those who have been loved and lost.
Other ceremonies are taking place at Craigavon Civic Centre (December 7) and also at Southern Area Hospice headquarters at St John’s House, Newry, on December 15.
Meanwhile, upcoming events include the launch of a CD entitled ‘I Believe’ on Friday (December 2nd) at St Bronagh’s Hall, Rostrevor, and a Christmas Variety Concert on the same date at the Cohannon Inn, Dungannon.
A Hospice Lottery Christmas Draw is also taking place on December 19th, with tickets costing £1 each. First prize is £1,000, with second prize a £200 voucher for Jury’s Inn, and third prize two return tickets for the Enterprise 1st Plus service to Dublin.
Another significant means of raising cash is through the three charity shops operated by the Hospice - one of which is located in Rathfriland Street, Banbridge.
Ann English has been in charge of the shop for several years and says local people continue to support it through donations and purchasing items which include clothes, bric-a-brac, handbags and shoes.
“We moved to our bigger, brighter new premises in Rathfriland Street over a year ago now and business has been good,” said Ann. “We are always indebted to people who bring in their unwanted items and especially at this time of year I would appeal again for locals to have a look around in their cupboards and wardrobes and see if there is anything they could donate to this very worthy cause.”