Here at Minsteracres Marian Fletcher has been trialing a new volunteer role of hospitality facilitator to fill the gap left by Sister Therese when she moved to a new position last autumn.

It quickly became apparent that Sr Therese had been something of a human dynamo, not only heading up our front of house presence and welcoming visitors, making sure that everything ran smoothly and that any problems were dealt with quickly, but also seeing to the small details, like keeping the flower beds tidy and putting flowers on the tables and in the hallway.

Marian is a long-time volunteer at Minsteracres, and when Fr Jeroen approached her to ask if she would be prepared to work with us to fill the gap Sr Therese left in a volunteer capacity, she readily accepted.

Now, nearly six months on, we have a better idea of what is and isn’t possible and the first step was to find more like-minded volunteers prepared to help cover busy periods. Step forward Mary Bradley, Mary Earnshaw, Marie Rice and Pauline Simpson. All four are existing volunteers and have worked together at various points in the dining room and have a good idea of what is needed.

They all met together recently with Minsteracres chair Claire Morgan, operations manager Geoff Bockett, community member Sr Cecilia and volunteer coordinator Jean Haldane to plan the way forward.

“What became clear is that it’s far too big a job for one person, albeit Sr Therese did a great job – but hers are big shoes to fill,” says Jean. “It can be quite a lonely job too, so it’s good that they have the support of each other. We’re working on a day leader model where one person is responsible at busy times and, where possible, hands over to the next in person in line.

“It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are to help,” adds Jean. “We approached some of our most experienced volunteers to help and none said no!”

Pauline explains, “I’m passionate about Minsteracres. It has given me so much in the 30 years I have been coming, and I wanted to give something back.

“It’s really important to be welcomed when you arrive and have someone say goodbye when you leave,” she adds.

“Simple things like putting flowers on the table can make such a difference,” says Marie. “We don’t need to be here for the whole week either but just make sure there are really good handovers between us.”

The next steps are to firm up the role description and extend the trial. It will be reviewed in another few months to see where it needs to be tweaked, but we hope that visitors will continue to experience the warmth and welcome for which we are famous, and that any questions are dealt with quickly and efficiently to everyone’s satisfaction.