“We’re so, so proud of what mum does,” says Angela, of Dot Hand, 80. “She was so shy, but her work for Weldmar has made her noticeably more confident.”
Dot started fundraising for Joseph Weld Hospice 28 years ago – two years before it was even built, having seen her sister-in-law dying of cancer in a hospital, crying out for morphine and deciding that just wasn’t good enough.
Even as she held her first, small-scale events such as small coffee mornings, she admits she wondered if it could possibly come true, that amazing care, where staff had the time to make sure people at the end of their lives were as comfortable as possible, would actually be offered free of charge to all patients.
“I thought it would only be offered to the rich,” she says. “But I was told no, this is for everyone. It is a wonderful thing to have.”
She added: “My sister-in-law died aged 26, nearly 60 years ago. She had small children. I saw her crying out for morphine, in so much pain and I thought this was not the way it should be.
“Then I lost my great-niece aged seven, and my son-in-law aged 24 and I just thought something better had to be done.”
Dot’s fundraising grew and grew over the years, going from a small event with coffee and cake to bric-a-brac sales, then working her way up to tea dances: “I knew it was going to be a lot of work,” she says. “And it was. We did it really elaborately, decorating each table. It did look nice.”
By this time Dot had joined the committee of the Friends of Weldmar. There were just a handful of people on the committee, which built up to 42 people and later, she was persuaded to be its chairman – an alien role for somebody so shy.
She said: “I used to have a bit of a stammer. It was hard to pronounce certain things and it affects your confidence. But I started small, first raising money for Cancer Research 50 years ago with small events and it just escalated from there.
“I lost my first husband 29 years ago and after that one of my neighbours Clinton Grassby (the funeral director) asked if I’d join a group helping to fundraise to build Joseph Weld.
“I used to push a trolley round shops in Dorchester getting draw prizes – I didn’t have a car or anything. And I’d run bric-a-brac stalls at events, and hold a garden party once a year. I’ve made great friends doing it. We all come to it with a reason why we do it.”
Dot married her second husband Gerry 17 years ago. He had lost his first wife to cancer.
He’s also a charitable type, having been involved with an AIDS charity in Bournemouth, The Sanctuary, and supported all her efforts for Weldmar over the years.
“I said I was going to step down when I was 70,” she said. “But I carried on. I have about ten lovely ladies who helped me. Most of my people are aged 75-plus. But my daughters help.”
A highlight of her work was attending one of the Queen’s garden parties. Another boost was raising £1,000 at an event for the first time. “That was so exciting,” she said.