City's hospices hoping to ease financial crisis after losing millions of pounds during pandemic lockdown

The city's hospices have spoken of their delight that fundraising activities can resume following a year of " devastating" financial losses they say they will never be able to recoup.

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 4:45 am

Last year St Gemma's Hospice, based at Moortown, lost £1.4m just from its 23 charity shops being forced to close during lockdown and a further £250,000 worth of income from cancelled events.

Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice said the drop in income towards the £5m per year it needs to run the Headingley based hospice was "deeply concerning".

However, both hospices are welcoming the return of events following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, and say had it not been for the general public and supporters they wouldn't have been able to stay open.

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Stephanie Dalton-Politis who took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks 2021 with a group of friends in memory of her husband, George, for St Gemma's Hospice.

Leeds dad, Luke Sollitt is taking on Leeds Half Marathon next month as a complete novice runner to say thanks to Wheatfields for making sure his father, James, can spend his final weeks at home, whilst St Gemma's held its first major annual event recently which was a music festival in Garforth.

More than 3,000 people attended GFest and more than £20,000 was raised towards the hospice. A spokesperson added that lots of people are now starting to sign up to do their own events, such as Stephanie Dalton-Politis who took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks 2021 with a group of friends in memory of her husband, George, raising nearly £2,900 for St Gemma’s Hospice.

Mrs Dalton-Politis said: "After my husband was diagnosed with a rare form of neurological cancer and he was nearing the end of his life, our oncology nurse suggested that we go to St Gemma’s to get the care he needed. We have three children and she suggested St Gemma’s because they would look after the whole family, not just my husband.

“Despite Covid restrictions, the staff gave my husband the highest level of care and ensured that the children and I could spend time with George so we could still be a family and for that I am so thankful. He died in November at the Hospice and I decided that the three Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge would be a good way to get fit and raise money for the Hospice.

Wheatfields Hospice at Headingley.

“St Gemma’s is an exceptional place and the children and I are receiving ongoing support from them, so the last I could do was climb a mountain or three."

Gail Chapman, head of fundraising at St Gemma's said had it not been for people like Stephanie, St Gemma's would not exist.

She added: "The last year has probably been the most challenging year in St Gemma’s history. The pandemic meant that our care and services needed to be delivered differently, colleagues had to quickly adjust to working in different ways including wearing masks and protective equipment, and of course our ability to raise the much needed funds to keep the Hospice running was massively impacted.

"The chain of 23 charity shops across Leeds were not trading for 7 months out of 12, which had a devastating impact on income which we will never be able to recoup. Having said that, the shops have been trading at record levels since we reopened in April.

"We are so grateful to the community for their wonderful support, not only during the past difficult year but over the past 43 years. It is true to say that St Gemma’s would not exist without the amazing support of the people of Leeds. The vital, expert care and support we offer to thousands of people each year, is only down to you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

At Wheatfields, since restrictions were lifted, the fundraising team has been working to make sure funds are coming in.

Donna Woodman, Head of Hospice Fundraising at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has been an incredibly hard time for many people and organisations. For Sue Ryder, our shops had to close their doors for a significant period and most of our fundraising activities had to be cancelled, which resulted in a deeply concerning drop in income.

“We have been overwhelmed by the incredible support of the general public who have donated generously to Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice. Since the easing of the restrictions, our fundraising and retail teams have been working hard to ensure we continue to bring in vital funds to run our palliative care services.

“Each year, it costs around £5 million to run Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice. Fundraising events like this make a huge difference in ensuring our nurses and expert care teams can continue to go above and beyond to provide specialist end of life care.”