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Friends' final fundraising praised after charity is dissolved

Friends' final fundraising praised after charity is dissolved

Friday 12 April 2024

Friends' final fundraising praised after charity is dissolved

Friday 12 April 2024

A charity which spent more than £1.5million on buying much-needed equipment for Jersey General Hospital across its 45-year history is to be wound down.

Established in 1978, the League of Friends ran a popular café and shop next to the Parade entrance of the General Hospital.

Volunteers provided the service for patients, visitors and staff, and all profits from the operation were used to buy items ranging from televisions and photocopiers to a cardiac ultrasound machine with a six-figure price-tag.

The charity was officially dissolved at a short Royal Court hearing earlier this month.

The court heard that the League had closed its shop and café at the Hospital's Parade entrance at the end of March 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, and that it had never been possible to re-open at the established site, or to identify new premises.

Carole Penfold, who served as Secretary since 1992, said there had been sadness at the decision, but that it had been decided that it was not viable to re-open.

"The circumstances were such that we felt it wasn't possible," she said.

"The Parade entrance was closed for a long time, which meant there was no passing trade, and we'd been told we couldn't serve hot food any longer.

"All our volunteers were older and some were no longer available to work, which meant we'd have had difficulty filling the roster, and we'd have needed to buy a large amount of new equipment."

The opening of the shop and café accounted for a surge in profits: after raising an average of around £2,000 per year during the 1980s and 90s, the charity passed the £1m total in 2016 and amassed annual totals of more than £90,000 in both 2017 and 2018.

All the money was put towards the purchase of items on a "shopping list" provided by the Health Department, detailing equipment that was wanted but fell outside the budgets for the Hospital.

The Royal Court was told that at the time the decision was taken to seek dissolution, the League of Friends had around £230,000 in its bank account after receiving legacies in the wills of two islanders.

A total of £202,000 had subsequently been spent, the court heard, to buy a renal dialysis machine for £50,000, an 'echo' cardiac ultrasound machine for £138,000 and two electrocardiogram monitors for £7,000 each.

Mrs Penfold said that remaining funds had been retained in order that any outstanding costs could be covered, with the balance of at least £20,000 then set to be transferred to the Health Minister for the purchase of further equipment.

The League of Friends received the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2013 and was nominated in the Volunteer or the Year category at the 2019 Pride of Jersey Awards, while Mrs Penfold was awarded the MBE for services to the community in 2017.

Having been so closely involved over many years, including closing the shop and café as Covid restrictions mounted and ensuring food stocks were distributed between the Shelter Trust and hospital staff rather than being wasted, Mrs Penfold said there was sadness at the league's closure.

"It was a very happy place – popular with patients, visitors and hospital staff, and the volunteers loved working there," she said.

"Everything comes to an end, and we just have to smile and say that we did our best."

At the conclusion of the Royal Court hearing, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae said he wished to put on record the island's gratitude to the league and volunteers for what it had done over many years.

Health Minister Tom Binet said that he was "sad" to hear of the news.

"The charity has been a valued part of our community for many years and I thank the volunteers for their hard work within the café in the hospital which supported patients, families and visitors, and visiting the wards to support patients," he commented.

"In addition to their volunteering, we are also grateful to the League of Friends for raising funds to buy hospital equipment. A portion of the charity's assets will be assigned to me to distribute, and I will make sure this is put to good use."

Pictured top: The League of Friends was nominated for a Pride of Jersey award in 2019, which turned out to be its final full year of trading at its base at the Jersey General Hospital.

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