The donation was made by the Masonic Charitable Foundation on behalf of West Lancashire Freemasons, which follows the hospice's bid for a grant to fund a special project. As a result, a visit was arranged from the St Helens and Prescot Group from within the Province of West Lancashire to mark the donation.
Willowbrook was chosen as a recipient in order to aid in the creation of ‘Willowbrook Connections’. This is a three-phase project to aid carers and family members who need support before, during and after the loss of a loved one. Particular emphasis will be placed on assisting children and male relatives, two groups who are often reluctant to seek help.
Specifically, the project will provide a ‘Kids Shack’ where children between the ages of 5 and 16 can come along to after school hours, get to know each other, and take part in activities together. Support will be on hand from trained staff who will engage with the children and help support them in those difficult times.
A similar project will create a ‘Men Shed’, designed to help and support male relatives who are often unwilling to talk about their difficulties.
The St Helens and Prescot Masonic Group has supported Willowbrook since its foundation and donations from the group, as well as from individual lodges and chapters, are an important aid in funding this essential and important local service. Although the hospice does receive aid from central government and the local health authority, this only provides a small percentage of the large sum they require each year to function.
Neil Wright, Willowbrook Hospice CEO, detailed that the hospice costs £4.5 million annually to run and that government support of just £1.5 million left a very large funding deficit. Neil explained that this shortfall had to be filled by appealing for voluntary aid and support from the local and wider community. Money, he said, was raised by various means, with donations and legacies forming a very important part of this fundraising, supplemented by the hospice lottery and income from the hospice.
The Masonic visitors were welcomed by the Chairman of the trustees Alan Chick, who gave a short explanation of the work done by Willowbrook and thanked the Freemasons for their generous donation.
The ‘Willowbrook Connections’ project was then explained by Family Support Therapist Jan Barlow, who explained that she would now be enabled to provide full time support and much more care and therapy for bereaved relatives. She stressed how ‘Willowbrook Connections’ would also provide continuing support for family members of terminally ill patients both pre and post bereavement.
On behalf of the visitors, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent paid tribute to the excellence of the care provided by the hospice and praised the staff for their commitment to delivering that care.