New transport drive set up to help patients at Sunderland hospice

Irwin Smart, who is recruiting volunteers to help run a bus for St Benedict's Hospice.
Irwin Smart, who is recruiting volunteers to help run a bus for St Benedict's Hospice.
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A STEERING group is being set up to help make a difference to the lives of hospice patients and their families.

Irwin Smart has been appointed as the transport manager at St Benedict’s Hospice in Ryhope and he is looking for volunteers to join him as he runs the service.

We can’t offer people the flexibility of the transport if we don’t get the volunteers we need.

Catrina Flynn, St Benedict’s Hospice fund-raising manager

It comes after £45,000 was raised to buy a new minibus through a host of fund-raising efforts, with the success helping to mark the 30th anniversary of the hospice.

Irwin, 56, from Sunderland, hopes his team of volunteers will help get the most of the new vehicle.

He said: “The minibus provides patients and their families with the flexibility of transport.

“Some days patients come in for treatment and they get to the point where they’ve had enough but they don’t have the transport to go home until later, so our minibus can help.

“We can also use it on day trips for patients and their families, but we need the volunteers to be able to make the best use of it.”

Catrina Flynn, fund-raising manager at the hospice, added: “We can’t offer people the flexibility of the transport if we don’t get the volunteers we need.

“Some of the patients can really struggle to get here, especially if they live in a rural area, and taxis are expensive.

“Our service is free for them and their families.”

Volunteers need to be between 25 and 70 years of age and need Category D1 on their driver’s licence, which allows them to drive a minibus.

Supporters helped collect cash to buy the bus by taking part in the Light Up A Life remembrance ceremony held at the hospice, donating through a dedication tree set up in The Bridges, where baubles bearing a loved ones name were put on show, and a James Bond-themed ball held at Ramside Hall in Durham.

Anyone who would like to volunteer is asked to contact Irwin on 512 8436.