Look up ‘volunteer’ in a dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of Geoff Duffell*. Officially Geoff is behind the wheel of the morning trolley service every Monday and Tuesday, but in the relatively short time I’ve worked for the Friends, I can tell you that he’s been at every fundraising event I’ve attended. He’s shown people to their tables at our Dine Around the Worlds, and he’s been Quiz Master at the Friends Quiz Night. When there was a car parking requirement at the Fashion Show, he was there in his hi-vis, and when I went for my booster vaccination, who was ticking me off at the door? Geoff, who else? And if you wonder why you don’t see him in more of the Friends photos given how many events he helps with, it’s because he’s the one behind the camera – of course. Quite simply, he helps out whenever and wherever he can. Always with kindness, and a wonderfully quick sense of humour.
When I sit him down for a chat about his volunteering and ask him to tell me himself what he does, he takes quite a deep breath…
It turns out that despite doing it now for around five years, the trolley service is a relatively recent role for Geoff, as he’d actually been helping the Friends for a good 5-10 years before he took the trolley on. He started volunteering with the Friends while he was still working in carpet-fitting. Geoff is one half of the Duffell powerhouse that comprises himself and his wife (and our brilliant Office Manager) Sue. Through Sue’s connections with the hospital, word got round that Geoff was a man with a van, and so his service to the Friends began. Over the years, he became an active member of the Friends, regularly helping with the Open Gardens, the summer fete, all car parking coordination, and the Annual Art Exhibition – even playing the part of auctioneer one year, and helping the Friends to auction off a painting. A tough crowd apparently, but he made it happen!
When Geoff retired from work, he signed up for the trolley round and it’s been a regular commitment ever since. He says the highlights of this role are meeting people and talking to everyone. “The staff are always so grateful to see us.” he says, “They enjoy the banter. And they’re getting food, when there is no time to get to the canteen.” He sees first-hand how stretched the staff are, particularly at the moment with Covid-19 causing such staff shortages. Which is why he is keen to help them as much as he can. But it’s not just staff he serves on the trolley round. “Anyone can buy from us.” he explains, “Patients, visitors, anyone who sees us in the corridor.” He’ll happily stop and help anyone, as long as he and his long-time trolley partner Louise keep loosely to their schedule and make all the wards by the end of the morning.
I ask him what makes a good volunteer and he says “willingness, positivity and geniality”, and his advice to anyone considering volunteering is simply to come in and try it. “Have your taster and you’ll know if it’s for you or not.”
Geoff received a Merit Award in 2016 for his services to the Friends over the years, and it sounds like there are plenty more years to come. “As long as I can walk, I’ll do the trolley, I love it. I really love doing that job.”
I’ll end this insight with a fact which I have thought wonderful since I first heard it, and that is that Geoff and Louise agree between them what they will be wearing on their next shift so that they arrive and do their trolley round in colour-coordinated t-shirts. To my mind that sums up the joy they bring to the job, to the wards and, for how much it amuses me, to the office too. Thank you Geoff.
*You won’t, obviously, but you get my point.
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