For selfless Bill Ellens, volunteering for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust continues a long passion for giving back.
There can’t be too many hospitals who have their very own litter picker. But Walsall Healthcare does – and Bill’s been doing it for more than six years.
The 76-year-old grandfather also likes to give back to help the planet – the Walsall Friends of the Earth member had wild flowers planted around the edge of Walsall Manor Hospital car park to attract bees and arranged for trees from the Woodland Trust to be planted around the grounds.
As Chair of Walsall Council’s Carer Users Support Partnership, Bill became a “critical friend”, heading up 20 volunteers in social care checking if people including teenage mums, disabled and mental health patients were receiving the correct support.
Bill, who was born at the Manor and lives a five-minute walk away, volunteers there three times a week.
His late mum Rose Ellens, a Registered State Nurse, worked in Maternity there for 25 years and died at St Giles Hospice, which is now renamed Goscote Hospice and is part of Walsall Healthcare.
Besides litter picking – and because of his love for gardening – Bill was asked to look after the West Wing courtyard gardens along with the garden to Ward 29, with help from other Trust volunteers.
Walsall’s branch of Friends of the Earth supplied some of the original plants for Ward 29, whose potting shed was funded by the League of Friends, while the Trust’s charity Well Wishers and local allotments donated plants.
Bill has also assisted with feeding patients on Ward 3 and has helped out at numerous Well Wishers events, including selling books and raffle tickets.
“If you ask a lot of people why they volunteer it’s because they want to give something back,” he said. “Many of us are living longer and in some cases healthier lives and it’s down to the NHS. Without the NHS and its advances in technology, a lot of us wouldn’t be here.”
Bill, who walks up to 10 miles a day with his two rescue greyhounds, speaks from experience as he underwent surgery to have his prostate shaved after it became infected.
“It’s also about talking to people and listening,” added Bill. “Once, on Ward 29 after I planted some tomatoes, I got chatting to a patient who was watering them and he put in some tomatoes in his window to ripen.
“He seemed uplifted by seeing things grow and the staff brought him out into the garden before he died. I’d like to think it helped him in those last few weeks of his life.”
Bill’s career as a caretaker for the housing department at Walsall Council, now whg, led to him meeting his wife Carmen, after her flat had burnt down and he went to help her. That was the start 30 years together.
During COVID-19, volunteer work was suspended, but, following its resumption, Bill was contacted by Julie Venables, Volunteer Administrator at Walsall Healthcare.
She wanted to set up a litter-picking group, as Julie knew Bill was a member of Walsall Wombles, a similar collective.
The pair spent an afternoon clearing the ground at the back of Ward 29. When Julie saw what Bill had done when he had finished, she cried tears of joy.
Julie said: “Bill is very passionate about what he does and he’s very good at it. It would be nice to develop that with more people involved.”
Volunteers are always welcome at the Trust. To apply visit: https://www.walsallhealthcare.nhs.uk/work-with-us/volunteering/ All applications are made through the better impact website. Voluntary Services can also be contacted on 01922 656869.