Your Friends at Airedale

by Sophia Smith


Visiting the hospital can be stressful experience for many, especially when, on arrival you’re met with the labyrinth of the corridors and far-flung departments to navigate…thank goodness for the Friends of Airedale, a voluntary organisation who strive to make sure our experiences at Airedale Hospital aren’t this way! Whether it’s taking us to find our appointment, making us a brew, a helping hand or just a comforting smile.

In November, nearly 1,000 years of services was recognised by the charity! Ninety-six volunteers received long service badges and certificates for their five-to-25-year voluntary service, totalling an incredible 960 years.

Chairman John Lofthouse became a volunteer in 2010 after he retired from his job, he told us, “I was an area sales manager for a timber preserving company, I covered a lot of different areas in the country visiting sawmills. I’ve been here for just over ten years now, I am now a trustee and chairman of the charity, I became a trustee after three years. I still volunteer twice a week at the hospital.”

During his retirement, John was busy taking care of his dad who was at home unwell. “I became his carer, I realised that I’ve always been happy when looking after people.” says John. “I volunteered because I wanted something to do where I can help people, I enjoyed meeting new faces and being around people!”

When John went for his interview to volunteer, the past chairman identified him as being ideal as a guide on the frontline greeting people on arrival. “I would take people to their appointment wherever it might be at the hospital! Lots of people visit Airedale, we take a lot of different people from all over Lancashire now, they’re plenty from Colne, Burnley and Blackburn. It’s not just Yorkshire Airedale covers.

“With our guiding section there’s a lot of people who are grateful we are there. Plenty of visitors are flustered, find the signage is confusing, but we’re here to put their mind at rest and send them straight to where they need to be.”

Chairman John Lofthouse ready to meet and greet

Volunteering helps to reduce loneliness; the activities give people the opportunity to build connections and surround themselves with people who share their passion and enthusiasm!

“It’s great for people who are on their own, for whatever reason, like myself,” says John. “Although I’ve got family, through volunteering I have made friends and we meet outside of volunteering, it’s a social kick too, we go out for dinner together.”

One of the main sources for the charity’s income is the money raised from the shop and donations. “Year on year, we have given the hospital on average £150,000-200,000 per year. Over a ten-year period, we’re coming up raising almost two million pounds. We run car boot sales which are all organised by volunteers, many volunteers give up so much time to help.”

I volunteered because I wanted something to do where I can help people, I enjoyed meeting new faces and being around people!

“About four years ago there was a new unit open called the Acute Assessment Unit, this runs alongside the emergency department. We donated £60,000 which was used to buy equipment for the ward. We also have a dignity room run by the volunteers where spare clothes for patients are donated.” says John.
John’s certainly a busy man, and definitely a happier one since he began volunteering and advises others to, “keep active, especially after retirement, I’m keeping the grey cells active!” John laughs.

“I love the company it feels like you are part of a family.”

Val Hargreaves also volunteers for Friends of Airedale; she spends her time helping to run the main entrance shop with a cheerful smile for everyone that visits…

“I took voluntary redundancy from Bradford Council a couple of years back; I was 58 when I left. I thought after working for over 40 years I’d be looking forward to my retirement, but I ended up having too much time on my hands, I really missed the work atmosphere!” says Val.

After noticing an advert in the Daily Mail for hospital volunteers, Val decided to apply.

“I had never worked in a shop before, so I was a little bit worried about using the tills, I’m used to working in child protection!”

Val enjoys making sure customers and staff are always replenished with a brew, newspaper or a bite to eat. “We sell all sorts, pies, gifts, chocolates, coffee! Everybody is so grateful it’s there, it’s a very busy shop! I thought the shop would close during the pandemic but luckily it was able to stay open. I was able to work with a lot of the younger volunteers, covering for the more vulnerable volunteers.”

Val Hargreaves

Like John, Val finds volunteering for Friends of Airedale gives her a real sense of belonging. “I love the company it feels like you are part of a family. When you retire from work you realise how busy and fast paced life was beforehand, and to be honest, you quite miss it! When you’re on your own at home like me, although I have my dog to spend the day walking, it’s nice to be part of a team.

“It was a little bit overwhelming at first, but everybody is so helpful, I really recommend it. You feel like you’re giving something back.”

So, don’t forget, the next time you’re at Airedale Hospital, keep a look out for your friends, you won’t have to look very far.

If you want to volunteer for Friends of Airedale call 01535 294624 or email

Craven&ValleyLife Spring 2022