Hospice support group still going strong after 40 years

SUPPORT groups have been the lifeblood of St David’s Hospice Care over the decades – none more so than one started in Cwmbran which in 40 years has raised more than £205,000.

Founding member Sallie Slade, of Cwmbran Support Group, said: “It’s my understanding that Cwmbran was the first support group to be set up. The first appointed nurse was in Newport and the second nurse was allocated to the Cwmbran area.”

At that time the hospice movement was relatively new and so people needed information about it as a concept as well as St David’s Foundation – as St David’s Hospice Care used to be know – in particular.

Support group members Paddy, Pam and Sal after taking part in the charity walk across the Second Severn Crossing, which is now known as the Prince of Wales Bridge

St David’s Foundation had very few paid employees at that time and part of the role of the support group was to spread the word about what its Hospice at Home service was all about – as well as to raise money.

Mrs Slade said: “In a way we were the public face of St David’s Foundation and many local people and organisations donated to the foundation through the support group.

“Members gave talks to local groups and often went along to pick up cheques from organisations including Rotary, Soroptimists, church groups and local councils who were pleased to support us.

Celebrating St David’s Hospice Care’s 40th anniversary at Blackett Avenue

“We even organised a street collection in Cwmbran town centre which would certainly not be in our remit now. We used an empty shop where we took the collecting boxes for the money to be counted and the money was put into the night safe at the bank. Do night safes even exist now?

“We regularly attended Cwmbran Carnival, Henllys Fete and other events to publicise St David’s Foundation and its services.

“Our meetings started in Llantarnam Grange and later we moved to Myfanwy’s – a restaurant in the town centre, long gone I am afraid. We held many social events there such as cheese and wine events, sausage and mash suppers, and our first St David’s Hospice dinner, before moving to Woodland Road Social Centre.

The team out supporting St David’s Hospice Care

“At a later date we moved to the Commodore Hotel, in Llanyravon, where we held some memorable events, including very successful fashion shows with clothes sourced from our charity shops. They were great fun.”

Mrs Slade said: “Over the years we have held cookery and microwave demonstrations. Our raffle prizes on these occasions being the dishes cooked.

“We used to hold a St David’s Day dinner on March 1 before it had really become popular to celebrate it. These dinners were popular and well attended with local dignitaries invited who often brought us a cheque too.

“After the first dinner at Myfanwy’s several more followed at a local hall with outside caterers before we moved the event to the Commodore Hotel – that is no longer with us but St David’s Hospice Care goes on. There seems to be a bit of a pattern here.

“We also organised bus trips, visiting London and Bath on several occasions and two very memorable visits to the Naked Gardeners at Abbeyhouse Gardens in Malmesbury.

“We supported the ‘Full Monty’ held at the old Odeon Cinema at Clarence Place in Newport twice with the firemen from Malpas Fire Station. Fabulous nights – where we gained new members to our support group. I wonder if Rick and his team would come out of retirement?

“Theatre trips also helped us to raise money. Our most recent was a weekend to London to attend the Classical Spectacular in the Albert Hall a couple of years ago.

“An ecumenical carol service was held each year with the service being held in one church and clergy and members of other local churches participating. These proved very popular, they were not exactly like the Light Up a Life services but were still very much St David’s Hospice in the community.

“Several times we were the recipient charity for a large choral event organised by local councils. The St Joseph’s club has always been very supportive of us and we have held events there. It is where we meet if just holding a meeting.”

Mrs Slade said some of the support group highlights over the years included:

  • Paddy Landers and Ivora Bodman representing the group at Cambrian House on November 21, 1984, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited.
  • In 1996 before the Prince of Wales Bridge was opened a huge charity walk was organised and the support group was lucky enough to be part of it. This event was unique, it was a wonderful occasion and the sun shone. The group has also participated in sponsored walks over the original Severn Bridge several times when the sun did not always shine.
  • Several events at the Congress Theatre including flower arranging evenings, fashion shows and one very memorable play put on by a local dramatic society called ‘Two and Two make sex’! Mrs Slade had written to the media to try to advertise the event and was surprised to get a phone call from someone from Radio Wales asking if she would talk live on air about it.

Mrs Slade said: “When we help with bucket collections and events it reinforces our enthusiasm. If you have ever done a charity collection you will be aware how invisible you become! But when people realise it is for St David’s Hospice Care they come and say I must give because they helped my brother, mother, sister, husband, wife.

“We are great believers in the first part of fundraising being ‘fun’ – which is probably why we only ever did one jumble sale!”

Mrs Slade said that as the foundation grew and more paid employees, including fundraisers, were employed the role of the support group changed.

“Our role is now more supportive and we help at events organised by HQ such as concerts, bucket collections or anything else they ring up and ask us to do.

One of the St David’s Day dinners hosted by the support group

“We still organise events ourselves including regular social events, afternoon teas, quizzes and a Chinese auction have proved very popular.”

She said: “We have become a ‘Meet and Eat’ group. We hold a meeting one month and eat out the following month. So we Meet and Eat. Actually we often eat each month!”

Several people have been members of the group for more than 30 years with Paddy Landers and Mrs Slade being chairman and treasurer respectively all that time.

Mrs Slade said: “We also have newer members, some of whom have joined us after having benefitted from the services of St David’s for their loved ones. If anyone would like to join please contact HQ at Blackett Avenue and they will be able to put you in touch with us.

The Cwmbran Support Group host an information evening at Myfanwy’s in Cwmbran

“This year we have obviously not met at all but I am amazed how generous people have been. My essential journeys have included banking at least once every month for St David’s Hospice Care. I have banked more than £5,000 this year which is amazing.

“We have records going back to 1989 and since then we have banked more than £205,000.

“The group is grateful to the people of Cwmbran who have supported us over the last 40 years and trust that we can continue to support St David’s and that their wonderful work will continue for many years to come,” said Mrs Slade.

A service which I know from personal experience is so valued by so many families.


[from South Wales Argus]