St Giles Hospice is celebrating the dedication and hard work of its long-serving staff and volunteers this week – despite celebrations being adapted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although COVID-19 restrictions mean that the annual Anniversary Awards ceremonies in Whittington and Sutton Coldfield cannot go ahead this year, more than 200 team members at St Giles will still receive their cards and pin badges.

There will also be a virtual celebration on the hospice website and social media, which recognises the combined 2,000 years of inspirational service St Giles staff and volunteers have given over the last 5-35 years.

Mandy Cale (left) and Eileen Harrabin with their certificates.

The awards have been presented as part of Hospice Care Week, a national event which celebrates the work of England’s hospices.

St Giles Hospice Chief Executive Dr Emma Hodges said: “We really look forward to our annual awards and usually have a series of presentations onsite but sadly that won’t be possible this year. However, while we can’t commemorate these wonderful achievements in person we are still determined to celebrate the dedication and compassion of our team.

“Also, in Hospice Care Week I would like to thank every single member of our St Giles family – whatever their role and however long they have been with us. We’re tremendously proud of them all and continue to be inspired by their commitment, which has only been amplified during the Coronavirus pandemic.”

Among the award winners is Eileen Harrabin, who started a job as a cleaner at the Lichfield St Giles Hospice shop on Tamworth Street more than 35 years ago. Although she worked in the shop for two days each week, she quickly decided that she loved being there so much she started volunteering for a further three days each week.

She said: “I walked into the shop in the first week and I just loved it so much that I’ve been there ever since. I really enjoy going in because the team and the customers are so nice.”

Eileen finished her cleaning job after 20 years but continues to volunteer in the shop whenever she can. “When you help out at St Giles you know that you’re supporting a really great cause. It’s a nice feeling to know that you are really helping other people,” she added.

“I was thrilled to hear I would be receiving an award for being here 35 years – it makes me feel so proud. The time has just flown by and I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it.”

Quality Assurance Administrator Mandy Cale, from Burntwood, who began working at St Giles as a nursing auxiliary in December 1990, is receiving her 30-year badge. Mandy later undertook her NVQ Level 2 training in Direct Care and became a Health Care Assistant, working on the Inpatient Unit for 15 years before joining the quality and administrative team.

Mandy said: “I’m absolutely gob-smacked to be receiving this award. I didn’t realise that so much time had passed – where have all the years gone?

“I’ve stayed at St Giles for so long because of the people – everyone is lovely and so supportive. People who come to work here tend to stay a long time because of that. You also know that you are giving something back to the community and making a real difference to local people’s lives.

“A lot has changed in the time I’ve been here, with the opening of the new Inpatient Unit in 2010 standing out as a true memorable moment, but whatever changes take place we all genuinely pull together as a single team. Even through all the disruptions of COVID-19 everyone has worked really hard to stay positive and do their best despite the challenges.”