Evelyn Dalton was inspired to help Saint Francis Hospice in Romford after witnessing the care it provided for her then husband’s step-mother in her dying days in 1986.
Starting out as a volunteer cleaner, she went on to train fellow volunteers to be part of the hospice team.
Now aged 80, she has decided to call time on her volunteering for Saint Francis but intends to seek out fresh volunteering opportunities.
Ms Dalton, vice-president of South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue, said the reason for her long association with the hospice was simple. “I loved working there and am so glad I have been able to do it.”
The grandmother-of-six reflected that “so much has happened down the years”, during which she has spent countless hours comforting patients with “no one to support them in their dying days”.
Beyond that, she recalled “setting up a hair salon in what was then known as the day unit. We had students from a local college and qualified hairdressers who came in.”
Ms Dalton had also worked to raise awareness of the hospice’s services and raise vital funds.
She had derived particular satisfaction from training and supporting young people on work experience at the hospice as a prelude to careers in healthcare.
“It’s what has kept me young,” she said. “It is great to see them train and following their chosen careers.”
Unsurprisingly, the toughest aspect of her involvement had been dealing with the death of patients.
“Because of my age, I’ve often known the residents. There have been friends, family members. It is sad when you lose them.
“But it is important to be there for them and the families when they need it and I’ve learnt how to switch off when I come home.”
In 2017, Ms Dalton received an award from the hospice marking 30 years’ service and is a past winner of Volunteer of the Year from the Help the Hospices conference.
She has also persuaded her family to volunteer at the hospice over the years. “They’d find it quite hard to say ‘no’ to me.”
Ms Dalton insisted she had no intention of “stopping to relax. I just thought that after 30 years, it was time for me to do something else.
“I don’t know what that is yet but it won’t be sitting around watching daytime television. It is not for me.”