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Having become involved with St Nic’s almost 10 years ago when he first volunteered as a Trustee, Charles Simpson has spent nearly a decade supporting St Nic’s. Having spent the past eight years as the Chair of our Board of Trustees, Charles has played a vital role in leading the Hospice.
However, it hasn’t all been Board and committee meetings, as there has been plenty of fun, laughter, and what some may call a hair-raising fundraising challenge along the way, too.
Why St Nic’s? It was a much-loved place, and I certainly wanted to be part of it
“Well, I had been a Trustee of a number of other charities before,” Charles recalls.
“Although at the time I didn’t know a great deal about the Hospice, one of my friends was already a Trustee, and they (the Hospice) were looking for new Trustees, and he approached me to see if I would be interested. It was quite a long time ago, but I investigated it further, and I did apply. Then, I joined the Board in 2013.
“I have always wanted to be involved in local organisations generally, but then when I found out a lot more about St Nic’s, I realised how much work and value it was doing across the whole community and how important it was, and actually how much of a much-loved place it is and I certainly wanted to be part of it.”
I was on holiday when I found out
After being on the Board for around 18 months, the charity’s then Trustee Chairman decided that he wished to step down.
Charles says: “He was looking for anyone that would be interested in becoming Chair, and actually, I didn’t expect to become Chair, but I did just register my interest, and as it happened with the way the voting turned out, I ended up as Chair.
“I was away on holiday at the time, and I remember getting a call from Adrian (then Trustee Chairman) saying the fellow Trustees have asked you to become Chair.
“I didn’t quite expect it, but it has been fabulous ever since.”
We’ve been able to adapt and change
A report by Hospice UK has said that 96 per cent of hospices are budgeting to lose money in 2023-24, and St Nic’s is one of those organisations. Soaring energy bills and the cost of living crisis are among the most significant factors, but St Nic’s is working to cope with and meet these challenges.
“It’s been a difficult period for Hospices across the Board and around the country, but I think one of the things we have been able to do is to adapt and change, and it’s about being able to continue to meet the needs of the community and do what we do and do it well.
“I think just being able to do that and to keep going with confidence and with the confidence of the community to see us keep going, I think, is probably the biggest overall achievement,” adds Charles.
During the past ten years, Charles has seen how the Hospice has changed to meet the community’s needs and the challenges that events such as the pandemic have brought.
Charles reflects: “There were obstacles and things that we had to deal with over the years that we hadn’t expected. But then I had been a chair of various other committees, so I understood that side of things – about running the Board.
“Of course, you don’t know what’s going to come and hit you down the track, and we’ve had to deal with a number of things, not least dealing with the pandemic. For nearly two years, all our Board meetings were on Zoom because it was not essential for the Trustees to come into the building at that time.
“I don’t think anybody would have expected that sort of working environment. But it’s about dealing with them and moving on, which I think the Hospice does generally very well.”
Over the last couple of years, Charles and the Board of Trustees have also welcomed a new leadership team to the Hospice, which he has found very positive.
He said: “Change is good, and any organisation should be willing to go through change because that’s how you move forward. There have been various things that have changed since I first came, and I’m very pleased to say I think they’re all very positive.”
When asked about his hopes for the Hospice’s future, Charles is clear his biggest one is that the charity continues to grow and develop: “The biggest hope is obviously that St Nic’s is able to continue to do what it does and to continue to grow. That’s going to be difficult. It’s a very difficult financial environment at the moment, and I think that’s something that we shouldn’t shy away from.
“I think it’s important for the community that St Nic’s continues to do what it does. Clearly, that would be my biggest hope that the Hospice is able to develop well and grow and continue to provide the services it does to all of the people in the Bury St Edmunds area and surrounding villages.”
Best and most memorable moments? “There is a range of them, really.”
As the Chairman of our Board of Trustees, Charles is responsible, along with other Board members, for leading the Hospice, establishing its mission, vision and values and ensuring it has a clear purpose. However, during his time as a Trustee and Chair, Charles has thrown himself into all aspects of the Hospice, even undertaking a fundraising challenge with a difference.
Charles explains: “When I first became a Trustee, one of the first things I did was to attend the Queen’s Award ceremony our Hospice Neighbours with the Countess of Euston. That was a really great occasion.
“Then there have been lighter moments. I certainly remember the Christmas Revues where one year the Trustees dressed up as the Queen and another year as ABBA – all part of the fun in the Hospice.
“The Hospice is a fun place. It’s not a serious place in the way that many people think it is, and that’s all part of the environment that I think is important to foster.”
In 2017, Charles found himself doing something very different in a bid to raise funds for St Nic’s. Having agreed to take part in the Hospice’s then I’m a CEO Get Me Out of Here event, he found himself in a local park on a cold November day with a list of challenges he needed to complete.
He recalls: “I remember the ‘I’m a CEO’ day very well. Trying to light a fire, which I singularly failed to do. I don’t think that my attempt at a shelter would have stayed waterproof. Then, having a corn snake and some sort of lizard dropped into my hands with my blindfold on was something I really hadn’t expected. But it was all good fun and, in the end, obviously for a good cause.”
Advice and words of wisdom
When asked if he would give any advice to the next Chair, with a chuckle, Charles says: “I’m not sure whether it’ll be listened to, but I think the advice is to go with what you think.
“Obviously, you have a Board of Trustees who have to go with you, but I think it’s about taking a lead and just taking a very sensible approach to issues as and when they arise and dealing with them in the best way that you can.
“Also, taking advice from others, not everybody has the range of skills required, and other people do sometimes, and I think it’s important to listen to others.”
If you had to describe the Hospice in three words, which words would you use?
“I think compassionate, caring, and fun,” decides Charles.
I’d like to be able to thank everybody
Having worked with many people at St Nic’s over the years, Charles has seen first-hand the dedication that staff and volunteers show, and he’s also seen the generosity the people of West Suffolk and Thetford have shown.
“I think everyone plays a part, and it’s a very important part that each person plays, whether they are working on the ward, fundraising, or providing a support service.
“I’d like to thank everybody for that, and particularly also the volunteers. The volunteers get no reward other than knowing that they’re doing something good for the Hospice, and so I want to make sure the volunteers are properly recognised as well.”
Do you have a story about your connection with St Nicholas Hospice Care?
In our 40th year celebration, we want to highlight the many contributions in our Hospice’s history.
We’re aiming to proudly feature 40 faces across the year, could you be someone who has a story to share?
If you are someone who has a fond memory to share, you can do so here.