DYNAMIC duo John Foster and Bruce Lawrence are part of a dedicated team of volunteers who represent Prospect Hospice.

The Wroughton-based charity appreciates the help they receive and wanted to highlight it during national Volunteers’ Week, which runs until Sunday.

John, 63, and Bruce, 65, spend two days a week travelling round in one of Prospect Hospice’s vans picking up generous donations from the public.

The items, which include furniture, electronics and toys among other things, are sorted in a warehouse and sold in the organisation’s shops to raise essential funds for the work they do.

The retired pair took up their roles after seeing an advert for van drivers. Although John explains the role is so much more than just driving.

“You learn so many new skills that you never had. You develop your interaction, diplomacy and an ability to assess the donations,” said John, who joined the charity in 2009. Driving is about five per cent of this as there’s so much more to it. One of the key responsibilities is sensitivity as on many occasions we encounter the recently bereaved and they’ve asked us to take possessions of those nearest to them.”

Prospect Hospice brings care, comfort and confidence to thousands of patients and their families in the community of Swindon, Marlborough and north Wiltshire.

Last year, they cared for more than 5,500 patients and provided support for their families. This was done at their base, in Moormead Road, and in the community.

Bruce said: “It is a local charity and they do some great work. It is a well-worn phrase but we are giving something back. A lot of the volunteers have been touched personally by Prospect, one way or another, and enjoy supporting them.”

A typical day volunteering in Prospect’s vans sees people from around 7.30am and finishing at 4pm.

On average their are 10 volunteers in the charity’s vehicles Monday to Friday with the helpers being paired together. John said: “I’ve met so many new friends through doing this and if it wasn’t for volunteering I don’t think I’d know they existed.”

The charity takes donated goods which they think they can sell in their stores and sometimes this poses difficulties.

John said: “You only have a few minutes to assess the items and on occasion you will differ in opinion to another volunteer.”

Bruce said: “Sometimes we’ll make a mistake and see something in the shop a few weeks later and think we shouldn’t have taken that but you have to be tactful when deciding whether or not to take something. A good day for us is getting lots of great things in which we know will help the charity.”

Both enjoy helping Prospect and would encourage anyone interested in volunteering with them as drivers or in another guise.

John said: “I’d say to anyone considering it to keep an open mind and see how it goes.”

He said: “After about four years of volunteering I saw they were looking for volunteers to get the word out about the hospice. So now, I visit WIs, rotary groups and golf clubs across the area and give presentations.”

Alison Chapman, voluntary services manager for Prospect, said: “Volunteers are vital to all that we do at Prospect Hospice. It cannot be overstated – Prospect Hospice’s volunteers make a huge difference to this community.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can call 01793 813355 or visit prospect-hospice.net.


Swindon Advertiser reporter Craig Jones shares his experience of volunteering on a pick-up run for Prospect Hospice...

I MET Bruce and John as they took a quick tea break mid-shift at Prospect Hospice.

We soon jumped in the van and headed out for a pick-up.

The retired pair explained their role and it became clear their responsibility amounts to much more than simply driving a van.

The abundant quality both men possess is humility as every day they volunteer it is likely they’ll meet someone who is donating belongings of a recently deceased loved one.

In some respects, it isn’t an unenviable the position to be in, but clearly emphasises the high esteem Prospect is held in by those who want to volunteer and others who want to donate to help their cause.

The collected items are sorted and then sold in the charity’s shop across the region. The funds raised go towards the Wroughton-based hospice’s work serving Swindon, Marlborough and north Wiltshire.

On the way back from making our collections, Bruce and John, spoke of the different type of people they’ve encountered in their work and being a little starstruck to encounter entertainer Julian Clary, whose family live in Swindon.

Although, the men aren’t after perks, they purely volunteer to support Prospect with the pleasure of making new friends being a nice bonus.

Back at the warehouse I was shown the great lengths volunteers and paid staff go to the assess the quality of the donations. With any that are unable to be sold being recycled – wherever possible.

Spending the afternoon with Bruce and John was a great pleasure and I’d encourage anyone interested in volunteering with Prospect to give it a try.