“I volunteer in Mum’s memory to give something back for the wonderful care she received at St John’s.”

Volunteer receptionist Janet Burgess is the first person patients and visitors meet when they come to Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice. She has volunteered there for five years in memory of her mother Joyce, leading to her being shortlisted for an award in recognition of her valued contribution. On the day of the awards ceremony, she reflects on what led her to volunteer and what keeps her coming back.

"My mother would be delighted that I am following in her footsteps, helping others along the way."

St John’s was a place where my mother, Joyce Thorpe, spent her last few days.

The grounds were full of snowdrops when we arrived and she said how beautiful the gardens were. She felt at ease the moment she walked through the doors. Her room was lovely; she loved lying in bed and looking out at the sheep in the field.

My siblings and I were so pleased that our mother was being cared for so well; it gave us the chance to enjoy our mother and share her final journey. Several close friends have also spent their last days at St John’s so it is a very special place for me and holds many memories.

I volunteer in her memory; I wanted to give something back for the wonderful care she received while at St John’s. She was a very special lady, loved by many people – she is my inspiration and if I can be as good a human being as her, I will be truly happy.

My mother would be delighted that I am following in her footsteps, helping others along the way.

What my volunteer role entails

I am the lead receptionist at St John’s so it’s my job to welcome patients and visitors to the hospice. All of the receptionists at St John’s are volunteers (many of whom have volunteered for many more years than me). I also help to train new receptionists, make sure the procedures are set and up to date, manage the rota, and help at events and with fundraising.

I hope the patients and families cared for by St John’s will feel as I did when faced with the bereavement of family members and close friends: knowing they are receiving the best of care and compassion.

The whole ethos of the Sue Ryder charity is one of caring and supporting those in need – and St John’s does just that. Visitors often mention how calming the atmosphere at the hospice is and how caring the staff are; I think Sue Ryder would be proud.

“I enjoy helping others and find it very therapeutic”

People I know are not surprised about my volunteering. Throughout my life I have been an ‘organiser’, from the time my children were at playgroup where I became Chair of the committee through to my sporting passion – netball – where I was one of the founder members and Chair of the Heritage Netball League, and also on the Bedfordshire and District Netball League committee. When I’m not volunteering at St John’s, I also help to raise funds for a children’s orphanage in Zimbabwe.

Simply put, I enjoy helping others and find it very therapeutic. I can always rely on support from my children, my partner and my friends – who are often roped in to help at the many and varied things I have done over the years!

Why volunteer?

This year, I am helping to organise the Country Fayre and Summer Festival in support of Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice. The Fayre is taking place in the hospice’s grounds on Saturday 10th August and I am part of the volunteer organising committee.

I am in awe of the enthusiasm, commitment and motivation of my fellow volunteers on the committee; we are determined to make the event a great success. Do come along and join in the fun – there will be lots to do, plenty of delicious food, great music and you will be supporting a wonderful cause.

I would say ‘Do it!’ to anyone thinking about volunteering. You will discover how great it is to help others; volunteering definitely gives you a great deal of satisfaction, it connects you to others and it is a great place for working with like-minded people and making new friends.

It is very rewarding. Together we really do make a difference.

Why Janet has been nominated for a Volunteer of the Year Award

“Janet has been shortlisted for Volunteer of the Year at the Central Bedfordshire Cheering Volunteering Awards 2019 - for her hard work both here at the hospice and in her own time,” says Leigh Chapman, Voluntary Service Coordinator at Sue Ryder St John's Hospice.

“Janet is a dedicated and valued volunteer and we are really grateful that she gives us her time, skills and experience. We want to say a big thank you for everything she has done and wish her the best of luck at the awards ceremony on Tuesday 4th June!

“Here at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, we couldn’t do what we do without amazing volunteers like Janet. Our 285 volunteers play a variety of vital roles, from meeting and greeting on reception and working on the ward to helping in the gardens and supporting our fundraising team.

“Their contribution helps us to be there when it matters for local people and their families and provide our expert and compassionate palliative care.”

Want to find out more about volunteering at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice?

Please contact Leigh by emailing leigh.chapman@sueryder.org, calling 01767 642 410 or browsing our volunteer vacancies online.


Lead Receptionist Janet Burgess

Volunteer Lead Receptionist

Janet Burgess
Sue Ryder St John's Hospice

“Together we make a difference,” says Janet Burgess, who has volunteered as Lead Receptionist at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice since 2014. She does so in memory of her late mum who was cared for at the hospice.