Jeff Wellington spent more than 43 years working for British Airways – but is still a high-flyer in retirement as an unpaid co-ordinator for the volunteer drivers at South Bucks Hospice.
Jeff, 70, leads a team of 11 dedicated drivers who provide a vital service for patients attending the hospice based at Butterfly House.
The volunteers make over 700 trips per year – at a rate of 60 per month – to ferry people to and from the hospice in High Wycombe for nursing, physio and emotional support.
He puts in around 60 hours a month, both driving and co-ordinating. And his personal commitment is such that he even successfully planned and delivered the roster in advance for the team for five weeks in his absence when he and his wife, Margaret, recently went on a dream trip to Australia.
“Butterfly House is terrific. You feel the warmth when you come into the building and we feel as volunteers we are doing something really beneficial,” he said.
“The whole concept of volunteering is about giving something back and it’s nice to come in here and do something that helps. There is just something special about Butterfly House; you cannot put your finger on it, but it is unique.”
Jeff retired nine years ago from BA after spending his career working with the cabin crew – the last 12 years of which were as a cabin crew operations manager. Almost a decade before he retired, he linked up with the hospice and – after a brief spell in fundraising – became a volunteer driver.
Despite holding down a demanding full-time job, he still found the time to fit in his voluntary shifts at the hospice. In addition, Jeff was a member of the St John Ambulance Brigade for 40 years, joining as a cadet and ending up as the County Commissioner for three years.
Today, his hectic pace of life continues unabated, following his promotion to volunteer co-ordinator about five years ago. Jeff and wife Margaret, who live in High Wycombe, are both volunteer front of house staff at the Wycombe Swan theatre. Margaret also helps as a volunteer at the Hospice at fundraising events.
He says the role of a volunteer driver is extremely responsible and is so important for the patients and the Hospice.
“You have a lovely relationship with the patients – you have the most amazing conversations with them, and we have an amazing relationship with the nurses,” he said. “Without the drivers, people would have to make their own way in. It is a vital link for the patients.”
Drivers use their own cars and have to be DBS checked. They can claim mileage. Although the team is currently very strong, more applications are always welcome.
“I never want to be in a position to say to the nurses that I need to cancel transport, and I would do that only as a last resort,” said Jeff. “We tend to get around any problems somehow, and the drivers are phenomenal and will all pitch in. However, we would always be pleased with more applications, so come and talk to us if you are interested.”
Jo Woolf, out-going CEO at Butterfly House, praised the efforts of Jeff and his team, and said: "Drivers change lives. All of our drivers are unpaid, dedicated volunteers and they are the unsung heroes at the coal-face offering vital support to patients."
* If you are interested in joining Jeff and the volunteering team at Butterfly House, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01494 552761