Arohanui Hospice has new curtains, sun screen blinds and squabs in 10 of their care rooms, thanks to the love and generosity of Feilding’s Jan Williams’ family and friends.
Jan who was secretary at North Street School in Feilding for more than 25 years died last November (2021) after living with ovarian cancer for 30-months. Jan’s husband, Royce, says he and his adult children, Matthew, Katie and Tyler, and their spouses, wanted to do something special for the hospice. “As special as the care they gave Janny.”
Jan was a person who loved beauty, and her kindness gave her a gift for friendship. Her life creed was helping others. Royce says they wanted their support for the hospice to be something that reflected Jan by making the care rooms restful and peaceful places of beauty. It’s let us give something back for Jan,” Royce explains.
“Jan said to me, ‘look, we need to do something for the hospice. Something special for these special people, who helped us so much.”
After Jan’s death, Royce talked with the staff. He’d noticed the curtains in the care rooms were fragile and staff had to take care when they drew them. “They worked okay, but they’d been there since the place was built. So we talked it over, me and the kids, and bingo! The idea was Jan all over – to make something beautiful.”
Curtains for 10 rooms don’t just appear out of thin air. Retired automotive engineer, Royce, who formerly owned Transport Maintenance in Feilding, drew on the Williams’ deep Feilding roots and turned to long-time friends, Julie and Andrew White. The Whites had owned flooring and interior design business Feilding Flooring Xtra. Julie started in the furnishing trade when she left school and had made drapes as part of her training, and there was nothing Andrew didn’t know about installing curtains and sun shades. They took the project and ran with it.
“No one will ever know the full extent of Jan and Royce’s generosity to the Feilding community,” Julie says. “Jan in her work at the school knew if a child’s family couldn’t pay camp fees, or if they needed essential equipment and couldn’t get it. And there were Jan and Royce, quietly helping.”
Julie and Andrew called on furnishing industry contacts to source materials and to assist with the curtain making. When people heard the work was for Arohanui Hospice, many gave their time and cost-price materials.
“It stretched the money and meant we were also able to replace the sun screen blinds in the bedrooms,” Andrew says. “The old ones blocked the light, but they also blocked the view of the gardens. The gardens are so important for people needing hospice care – not just the patients but their families and friends.”
Royce, Julie and Andrew hung the new curtains and blinds in a weekend working bee and were delighted with everyone’s reactions. Julie had chosen soft green stripes for half the rooms and a gentle self-striped neutral for the rest, with the exception of room 3 curtains, which were replaced by Window Trendz as part of a competition last year. The clean, soft colours freshened the rooms.
“A couple of the patients had gone out for visits, so we quickly installed new drapes in their rooms. They loved them and their reactions on return were so rewarding. It showed us how much it was going to mean to people,” Andrew says.
The down side was that the beautiful, fresh new drapes made the old window-seat squabs in the rooms look tired and shabby. Julie wasn’t having that, and racked her brains to think how to include new squabs in the refurbishment.
Jan had set up a social media group to keep people updated on what was happening. She explains, “So, I got on the computer, put out an appeal for some money to get materials for new squabs, and oh my goodness! I’ll never forget it. I was just overwhelmed with offers. Everyone wanted to help.”
Money rolled in for new foam, and fabric was donated. When Julie finally managed to get away from the computer, she and Andrew and their daughter, Danielle, made the squabs. Para Rubber gave excellent advice about using bed-grade foam to make the squabs comfortable for family members needing rest.
Royce, Julie and Andrew all said they couldn’t praise the hospice’s staff highly enough. Royce was moved to tears, describing the care given to Jan, and Julie and Andrew had similar wonderful experiences with their mothers and the hospice.
“The hospice staff and volunteers become part of the family.” Royce says. “They’re with you, every step of the way.”
Becoming part of the Williams’ family is a very special thing. All three of Jan and Royce’s children uprooted and came home to Feilding for Jan’s final weeks, moving from Melbourne and Auckland to do so. The time together was precious, reliving memories of Jan and Royce’s travels all round the world, and helping Jan plan gifts for her grandchildren, now and in the future.
“Jan was a wonderful knitter. There’s boxes of knitting for the grandkids, just waiting for them.” Royce says.
He says it was strange now to think that Jan had initially resisted going to the hospice. This is not unusual for people living with terminal illnesses; it feels like giving in.
“But one night the pain was more than we could deal with at home and it was the ambulance driver who got Jan there. He quietly reminded her about the help she’d given his family when he was having cancer treatment himself, and he said it was his turn to help her.” Royce was quiet. “He asked her to trust him. That’s the sort of care Jan got, that we all got.”