A VICAR who has volunteered at a hospice for 30 years has been praised for his hard work.

Volunteers and staff from Havens Hospices who provide specialist care were recognised for their efforts at a special awards ceremony.

Revered Frank Smith celebrated 30 years of volunteering for the charity, which cares for seriously ill children and adults, as part of the chaplaincy team.

Rev Smith, 71, from Thorpe Bay started volunteering at Fair Havens Hospice in 1985 when the hospice was first built.

He said: “When I first started volunteering the hospice was a lot different compared to now, there were only 20 members of staff in the whole organisation then so it is great to see how much it has grown since.”

He first got involved with the charity in 1985 when founder Daphne Hall asked local churches to support her vision to care for seriously ill adults in Southend, Castle Point and Rochford.

He said: “I have made so many memories whilst volunteering but one that springs to mind happened years and years ago. I remember a chap that came into Fair Havens; he was 40 years old and had two young children. The first thing that he said to me when I walked in was ‘I don’t want to talk about God’, I replied ‘Good. I’m not here to talk about God, I’m here to talk about Manchester United’ as I think that was the team he supported.

“Throughout his stay we spoke regularly and then one day he said ‘I think I’ve changed my mind, I want to be baptised’. I baptised him that afternoon and the next day he died. That has always stayed with me.

“My time at Havens Hospices has gone so quickly – I just stuck at the role like glue and 30 years down the line I’m still here! I plan to continue to support this wonderful charity until I no longer can.”

Havens Hospices incorporates Fair Havens Hospice for adults, in Westcliff, and Little Havens Hospice for babies, children and teenagers in Thundersley. They provide respite, help control pain and medication and end of life care.

Volunteers and staff were recognised for working for the hospice for five, 10, 15 and 20 years at a ceremony at Saxon Hall in Southend with chief executive of Havens Hospices, Andy Smith, and director of care, Helen Forster, handing out each certificate and badge to 74 hardworking members of the organisation.

Mr Smith said: “That we are fortunate to have so many members of staff and volunteers who have given five, ten, fifteen and, for one volunteer this year, thirty years’ service to the hospice says so much about their own personal commitment to supporting people in our local community in ensuring they receive the hospice care they need.

“It was an honour on behalf of all those who benefit from our services to thank them for their dedication and to let them know how much their hard work is appreciated.”