Elizabeth Timmons is a fund-raising phenomenon, exploiting every opportunity to gather more funds for a cause so close to her heart.
She trained as a State Registered Nurse and worked as a midwife at the Maternity Hospital in King Street, Watford, and after it closed in 1968 at the maternity unit at Watford General Hospital. But she jumped at the chance to join the Peace Hospice as a volunteer in the early 1990s, partly motivated by the chance to offer individual care to patients.
During her years as a midwife she saw fund-raising opportunities everywhere. “I can be quite good at coaxing people”, she said, and persuaded doctors and nurses to buy her home-made sandwiches instead of visiting the canteen. She ran two auctions a year, making “fabulous money” and made cakes, organised raffles and co-opted a local troupe of Irish dancers to become regular supporters. As a practising Catholic, Elizabeth formed the Irish and Holy Rood Hospice Support Group, based at her Church in Watford, and used regular events there to raise more money.
“I was so pleased when I was told I had raised over £100,000 …and now probably another £100,000”, she said (interviewed on May 5th, 2015). She ran a Ball every November, charged £2.00 for tea and cakes at her weekly Bridge group and when she and her husband celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, Elizabeth asked for money instead of presents, resulting in a £1000 gift to the Hospice. The couple raised more money for the Hospice by opening their impressive garden to the public annually for 17 years.
“Watford people are marvellous, generous people”, she said. “And none of it is a hardship for me – I get great joy because I love people”.
As a volunteer at the Hospice, she would serve lunch to patients and in the afternoon take round her tea trolley, which could take some time, because if any patient wanted to talk, she would always be a willing listener and comforter. Elizabeth quoted a survey which found that people who had a good social contact needed only half the pain relief of people who were isolated.
“Working with patients puts all your worries into perspective”, she said, even though some of the patients affected her deeply. Among those who left indelible memories was a middle-aged woman, dying of cancer, who wanted to dance the polka one more time. “So I danced with her up and down the corridor”. Another woman was allowed to receive a visit from her pony to say goodbye. “I’ve met some very brave people and no one has ever said ‘poor me’”.