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Dragon Interview: British Heart Foundation Fundraiser Shirley West BEM

Published on: 29 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 27 Mar, 2017

Shirley West talks about her 33 years of service with the Guildford and Godalming fundraising branch of the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Shirley West with her British Empire Medal.

When did you become involved with the BHF and why?

Just by chance really. I was ill myself and needed urgent treatment which required the use of an interferential machine – a machine used to treat the internal organs of women diagnosed with cancer cells.

There was only one machine between Farnham Hospital and St Luke’s in Guildford. The machine was on loan and I was asked by the nurses if there was any way that I could help raise the money to buy the machine. We raised the money within three months by organising sponsored walks and many other fundraising events.

Dr Guest was impressed by our efforts in installing the machine at the St Luke’s gynaecology department. I could not have done this without the help of my friend and neighbour, Maureen Leman.

At the time Maureen’s father had heart problems and by way of repaying Maureen back for her kindness I decided to give Maureen my services for a year to help raise money for the local BHF.

When did you become further involved?

I joined the committee of the local BHF branch in 1984.

What do you do in your role as chairman of the Guildford and Godalming branch of the BHF?

I organise meetings and lots of events to raise funds and awareness of the BHF. While doing this I ensure that I take an interest in the wellbeing of all my team.

Shirley West presents Dr Chua and specialised clinical physiotherapist Geraldine Machin with one of four heart monitors.

How many fundraisers do you have in the group?

There are now 12 of us in the group and we are supported by many helpers. I am very lucky to have Brian Smith as my vice-chairman, he is a joy to work with.

Brian and his wife Doreen organise barn dances, summer fairs as well as turning out for every organised event.

All the team turn up for all events. Joan Hornet our treasurer (a treasure herself) was awarded Volunteer of the Year three years ago. Maureen, our secretary and I have worked together for over 30 years, as well as being a personal friend she is an invaluable member of our team.

Personally, I think every member of my committee is outstanding.

What are some of the items that you have raised funds for?

All the heart monitors by patients’ beds at the Royal Surrey County Hospital were provided by us. The colourdoppler machine that cost about £175,000 was funded by our Guildford and Godalming branch.

We have provided heart monitors for outpatients to use at home. We have provided countless difibulators in public places such as schools, hotels, sports clubs, etc. And much, much more.

How much money has been raised by the branch in your time?

Somewhere in the region of £11 million – and still rising!

Safeguard’s Andrew Halliday presents the cheque to BHF fundraisers at the coach firm’s depot in Ridgemount, Guildford.

What are your memories of your fundraising events?

All of our fundraising events are special as they are always fun and enjoyable. We have been lucky in having the support of the Holiday Inn and the Spirit Health Club, Spectrum, Tesco, Guildford Lido and many others who provide us with function rooms, tea, coffee, cakes etc for a number of our events.

We are also supported by Friary Guildford Brass Band who entertain our guests at a festive concert every December.

Street collections are always fun, successful and a great way to increase awareness within the Guildford community. Many local residents have been greatly helped by just having a chat with one of our members. Often we can refer them to services that they were not aware of.

Local BHF members give their thanks to the Holiday Inn and the Spirit health club.

What are you currently fundraising for?

This year (2017) we are trying to raise awareness of heart disease. Funds raised will help support people needing treatments by providing nursing care and new equipment. Major breakthroughs happen all the time so we are pleased to be able to help fund research at the University of Surrey.

We are promoting cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the local community – quick action saves lives.

What events are you currently planning?

We have lots of awareness events this year. We are very fortunate that the incoming Mayor of Guildford, Nigel Manning, has chosen the BHF as his main charity. We feel very honoured about this and Nigel knows that myself and my committee will work with him 100%.

We will be having a May Fayre on the 20th of May at Fairlands Community Centre at 10am.

A celebration for the Queen’s Sapphire Anniversary with a tribute to Vera Lynn will be held. Date to be confirmed.

David Rose will be giving a local history talk in October at the Holiday Inn with all funds going to the BHF.

Lots will be happening this year – keep a look our for announcements on the Guildford Dragon website and local media. Posters will be dotted around and you can follow us on Facebook.

If somebody would like to join your team what do they need to do?

Whenever they see us out and about just come and have a word – we are very approachable.

Anybody who want to have fun and help raise funds in their local community is welcome.

You obviously enjoy your work. How do you feel when you reach your target?

I am always excited about new events and feel ecstatic when we hand over equipment to the cardiac department. Dr Chua is always as excited as I am. The nursing staff are always very grateful and appreciative of our work – turning up and supporting our events. It is also wonderful when I meet people who have benefited from treatment and equipment that we have helped fund.

My work would not be possible without the tremendous support of my team and the local community. Special thanks must go to Ann Milton, our MP, who despite her demanding role at Westminster, always manages to support our events.

It is always an honour to have our local MP with us. I must also express my gratitude to the current mayor, Gordon Jackson and his wife Sue, as well as former mayors of Guildford who always give us tremendous support.

I am proud to say that the BHF head office is in awe of the work done in Guildford and we are the top fundraising branch in the South East. Not bad for a bunch of volunteers that give and keep on giving.

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