Elspeth has volunteered with Cruse Tyneside for 20 years since the Tyneside branch opened in 1997. In the early days, she pitched in to cover a number of roles – in fact anything that was needed to get the service up and running and put procedures in place to deliver a smooth service. During the last 20 years, Elspeth has been Chair for 3 years and Vice Chair for 1 year and continues to lend her wisdom and experience as a member of the Area Management Committee.
Why did you become a volunteer?
This can be summarised as a wish to make a difference in, first my own life, then in those I would plan to help.
It’s quite hard to answer as it seems a long time ago(!), but I had decided to leave my role as a social worker (tough even then!) and retrain as a counsellor as I'd had that 'light bulb moment' of being listened to so meaningfully for the first time on a first introduction to counselling course at work.
Also, two years before, my mother had died and, as this was my first significant bereavement, I was overwhelmed. But, somewhere in my head, came the thought that bereavement would be very interesting to study. Somehow, the two things came together and, after a year's placement at Cruse Newcastle and Gateshead as it was then, I became a volunteer , not realising I would stay for all these years!
What is the most important skill for a volunteer in your role as a management volunteer?
This is a hard one, but if I could isolate something, it would be the ability to think around an issue from everyone's point of view, but then to be able to make hard decisions if they are necessary, and to always have 'the vision thing' for the Area, in front of you.
What is the most important thing you have learnt as part of your volunteering for Cruse?
I think the most important thing I have learnt is to trust in others -- to be genuine, empathic and congruent when necessary, both in and outside Cruse. It also seems to me it's as important to have these at the core of managing a Cruse Area as well as the work with clients. Being part of the management team on Tyneside has been hugely rewarding for me over the last few years. I have gained some good friendships as well as giving to an organisation I love.
What would you say to some-one thinking of volunteering for Cruse?
Give it a go! You'll meet some amazing people, gain some friends and give back to your community. What could be better than that?
Cruse Tyneside said: “Elspeth is a highly valued member of the Tyneside management team because she gives every decision thorough and careful consideration. She helped negotiate NHS funding contracts to put the Area onto a secure financial footing and has subsequently taken the lead on monitoring finances. In addition, she has frequently volunteered to take the lead on developing new services, always with meticulous research and careful planning. Most recently she took on the implementation of the Face the Future project, in conjunction with the local Samaritans, and the result was a very successful run of support groups for people bereaved by suicide.
"In latter years, she has managed to contribute many hours as a volunteer despite suffering complex and painful back problems. Even with a recent cancer diagnosis, she is still attending Area Management Committee meetings and intends to continue, as usual, treatment allowing. We would like this profile to be a tribute to Elspeth’s exceptional commitment and the esteem in which she is held at Cruse Tyneside.
"All volunteers and staff at Cruse Tyneside send their best wishes for her forthcoming treatment and look forward to her being back to full health next year, fully recovered."