There were double celebrations at our Bethany home in Plymouth on Monday, 9 December as the Local Authority’s Social Services, Bridget Buckley, presented it with two ‘Excellence’ awards.

The first was the ‘Excellent in End of Life Care’ award that Bethany has received for the first time. Each year since 2015 they have been successfully verified by St Luke’s Hospice as 'End of Life Care Champions'. Manager, Emma Hughes, also qualified in Teaching End of Life Care and noted that the Home’s awards are the result of deep commitment from each staff member, whatever their role.

“It’s the thanks we get from relatives that say the most,” she said, “a daughter wrote, ‘I’m struggling to express my thanks… I marvel at the love and care that you gave to (name). Bethany was truly her home: somewhere she could be safe, comfortable and happy. We think Bethany is extraordinary and are glad for everyone’s sake that it exists. Thank you is not a big enough word.”

Listening quietly to the first Award speech was volunteer Mike Spry, who was astounded to find that the second Award was for him as ‘Volunteer of the Year’.  Mike came to Bethany in 2016 as a pastoral support volunteer through the ‘Churches Together in Plymouth’ programme. He focused on Bill, (name changed) a resident with no friends or family and who struggled to make connections with others. When introduced to Mike he said, “I have no friends.” Mike replied, “if you would like me to, I would be your friend.” Bill was thrilled about this and for days afterwards would say to staff, “did you know I have a friend – have you met my friend Mike?”

Mike’s weekly visits to Bill were not easy. Conversations could be heavy and challenging, and Bill could be contrary. Discovering that his hobby had been amateur radio DJ, Mike arranged for equipment so he could take it up again. Boxes arrived at the home and Mike was all ready to help Bill get it set up – then Bill changed his mind and asked for it all to be sent back so plans Mike and spent so long putting together had to be abandoned. Mike said he felt sad that Bill wouldn’t be able to enjoy his old hobby again.

Where Bill could easily misunderstand others and drive them away, Mike persisted. “Vulnerable people need love and persistence,” he said, “and to know that you are genuinely interested in them. They can tell if you’re not.” In December 2018, Bill’s health began to fail. He told Mike that he wanted to know where he was going, and they began conversations that led Bill to Jesus Christ and spiritual peace. Staff in the home noticed how peaceful he was in the last days of his life.

Manager Emma noted that, “this was a special giving: not obvious and in the limelight. It was a willingness to be faithful in being alongside when seemingly little was given back in return. And the result? A man on the edge of society knew that he was valued, and now has eternal life.”

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