Meet the real angels who will work this Christmas
While many of us are enjoying a well-earned break this Christmas, surrounded by family, laughter, presents, and a smorgasbord of festive treats, some will sacrifice their day to look after others. But why?
Just as most of us are sitting down with our family for a roast turkey dinner on Monday, volunteers across the Fylde coast will instead give up their time to look after others.
Not ordered to work, not picked from a hat, but real hands-in-the-air ‘I’ll do it’ – leaving their colleagues able to enjoy quality time with their loved ones, and some of the town’s poorliest people able to receive top quality care.
Steph Dymond, 70, will man the front desk at Trinity Hospice in Bispham after vowing to give something back after beating cancer in her 30s.
With her daughter, Lesley Padgett, now 50, and her grandchildren also adults, she said she’s looking forward to soaking up the festive spirit.
“I like being at the hospice on Christmas morning because there’s a celebratory atmosphere.
“There’s a lot of volunteers that have children and they want to watch their faces – my children and grandchildren are grown up. I go to my daughter’s in the afternoon for dinner so I put my name down to work in the morning. It’s a nice place to be. It’s appreciated as well.”
Lesley Pollitt, who is in her 70s and will also help answer the phones, said the atmosphere at the hospice is ‘quite joyous’, despite the sadness of what is likely to be many patients’ last Christmas.
She said: “When you come into the hospice, you notice it’s not a morbid place. It’s cheerful, and it’s joyful.”
And Sybil Radford, 79, will man the tea trollies to make sure patients and their families are well looked after.
The South Shore resident, who doesn’t have any children, said: “Last year they had a lovely family in. They all came together because their mum was dying and they had lunch and had a buffet on the evening.
“The husband said he had been dreading Christmas because the boys were young, but he could not believe they enjoyed it so much. It’s a magical place.”
It’s not just at the hospice, in Low Moor Road, that people are volunteering for the Christmas Day shift.
At Lancashire Care, which runs mental health unit The Harbour in Marton, senior nurse Graham Brown will help manage admissions on what can be a busy time of the year.
He said: “Throughout the Christmas period, there can be an increase in terms of people becoming isolated. It can impact them a lot more in terms of mental health and mood.
“There’s a lot of nurses who have young families, so I get asked to swap shifts because I don’t any more. I know there can more social pressure on them than me, so I’m willing to swap.
Thinking back, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t work at Christmas. It’s very important to provide care.”
And nurse Michelle Hawkins, who works on The Harbour’s Bronte ward, said she’s happy to work because Christmas Day ‘is unlike working any other day’.
“There is a really good atmosphere,” she said. “Lots of visitors, different things going on, and different people visiting the ward, giving opportunities for our patients to interact, socialise, and experience something different.
“We invite husbands and wives to spend Christmas on the ward and have Christmas lunch with us, which is a lovely thing to be a part of. Christmas can be a difficult time of the year for our patients and their families.
Travelling to the hospital can be challenging and for those without extended family it can be a lonely time of the year.
“It is also quite often the first time a couple have been separated on Christmas day which can be a very distressing time.
Bringing couples and families together is emotional and rewarding.”
More than a million people are expected to work on Christmas Day.
Even though Christmas Day and Boxing Day are classed as bank holidays, there is no right to have the day off unless your contract says otherwise, employee advice service Acas said.
It added: “There is no legal right to paid leave for public holidays.
“Any right to paid time off for these holidays depends on the terms of a worker’s contract.
“Paid public holidays can be counted as part of the statutory weeks of holiday.”