As the first Chair of the Peace Hospice, Gill Hollander was one of an inspirational band of people without whom the project would never have got off the ground.
As a member of the local Health Authority who’d been involved in raising money for a Scanner at Watford General Hospital, Gill was asked to embark on another Appeal. The idea of a South West Herts Hospice, located in Watford but also serving areas such as Potters Bar and Borehamwood, received whole-hearted support from several parties, including the leader of Watford Council, Mike Jackson, and the Watford Observer.
But when a new Health Authority took over in 1989, it initially opposed the idea, while the local MP, Tristan Garel-Jones, said he didn’t believe the people of Watford were generous enough to raise the necessary funds.
“The beginning was just a non-stop fight to get things underway”, said Gill. The Health Authority was concerned that the Trust would go bust and the Authority would have to take over financial responsibility. The Trust lost its office at Watford General and had to launch the Appeal from a shop in Lower High Street, Watford; while it paid no rent, it had to rely on donated items to sell. The Health Authority ruled out the Peace Memorial Hospital as a site for the Hospice because they hoped to sell it, only to discover that the lease required it to be used only for altruistic purposes.
Throughout those early years, little progress would have been made without volunteers and sponsors. Nurses were paid, but as Chief Executive, Helen Ellis received only a modest salary and three retired GPs gave their services free, paying their own insurance, until their first payment when a consultant was appointed. The regular printing needs of the Appeal were supplied free by a company owned by Lord David Evans, a passionate supporter of cancer research, while Gill Hollander, finding herself next to a printer from Rickmansworth at a function, persuaded him to print 250,000 leaflets without payment.
The Watford Observer provided maximum publicity for the cause at every opportunity, while the volunteers included a retired Admiral who acted as maintenance man for the first three years.
Gill felt one of her chief contributions was “always knowing a man who does”, while she said Helen Ellis was “a genius” and “so beautiful” that no man could ever say No to her.
The temporary Day Centre was opened in 1993 by Roy Castle. It had a consultant, a Sister and two Staff Nurses and offered physiotherapy, aromatherapy, a hairdresser and a bath with a hoist – but no beds.
Since then the present building, its staff and volunteers, along with the Hospice at Home service, have provided care and understanding to hundreds of people. Gill Hollander received an OBE in 1998 for her role.