HOSPICE officials have thanked the community for helping the charity not only survive the pandemic but flourish during the most challenging period in its history.

Staff, volunteers and community fundraisers were recognised at an award ceremony staged at the annual general meeting of St Teresa’s Hospice.

Guests attending the event, at Blackwell Grange Hotel, Darlington, heard that the charity was in a more financially secure position than before the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to overwhelming support.

Auditor Simon Brown told them: “Financially this has been the best ever year despite normal income generation activities and the shops being curtailed. Income was replaced in a number of ways including grants, donations, emergency funding and some large legacies.”

More than £4.5m was raised compared to £3m the previous year thanks to the ingenuity of staff and the generosity of the community, he added. This had turned a £271,000 deficit of 2020 into a £1.8m surplus.

Hospice chairman Harry Byrne, who is retiring after 14 years on the trust board and was presented with honorary life membership, said: “The hospice teams have adapted and found innovative ways to continue to care for those in need in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

“There will be challenges going forward as the pandemic will carry on for years and the NHS is going through a restructure. But I have no doubt that the hospice will continue to thrive.”

He also had high praise for all the staff and volunteers and the hospice chief executive Jane Bradshaw, who is due to retire in March. “You simply cannot resist being swept up in Jane’s infectious enthusiasm and the hospice is the product of her zeal,” he added.

Jane said: “We are doing well at the moment but our fortunes will change and we are going to need some big friends in the future to ensure that the hospice’s free core services remain available.

“Our managers, nurses, health care assistants family support team and therapists are well deserving of the praise they receive from grateful patients and families, but we shouldn’t forget that standing behind them are the administrators, finance people, HR, facilities, housekeeping and catering departments and our lovely volunteers, supporting and making their work possible.”

Jane then singled out the income generation team and retail division saying that they have been phenomenal in backing the people who provide our care.

“In the past year we have seen things in a different way, we have functioned in a different way and we must now work to ensure we sustain this fantastic charity.”

Certificates were presented to: Cameron Wilson, Lucy Hartley, John Forsyth, Val and Ian Hepworth, Thomas Watson Auctioneers, Stan Seaton Photography, Teesside Karting, Alnwick Gardens, John Wade Recycling, The Log Man, Wendy Sedgwick, David Fisher, Lyn Hatch, Naomi Harrop, Alex Spurr, Phil Cope, Lauren Devlin, Bailey, Ellis and Helen Porter, Barmpton Lane Allotment Association, Glebe Road Allotment Association, Smithfield Road Allotment Association, Coniscliffe Leek Club, Darlington Woodland Bowling Club, Marne Shooting Club, Croft Carol Singers, Teesdale Folk, Hurworth Stompers Club, 27th Darlington Scout Group, Coffee Gang 2020 and Elm Ridge Women’s Fellowship.

The hospice’s latest annual review was launched at the event and focusses on how the charity and its staff have had to adapt because of Covid-19. A digital version can be viewed at https://www.darlingtonhospice.org.uk/about-us/