Crafty Josie’s skills raise money for Willow Burn Hospice

Josie Fenwick

Nimble-fingered Josie Fenwick is on a mission to raise money for the hospice where she has been a patient for nearly four years.

Every 12 weeks Josie stays at the Willow Burn Hospice in Lanchester for respite care. She has suffered from a debilitating respiratory disease for more than a decade and survives because of her medication, oxygen bottle, wheelchair and the care of her daughter and hospice staff.

The 63-year-old widow from Catchgate near Stanley says she is determined to repay the kindness she has received at Willow Burn by raising money to support its current services and a £2.2m appeal to build a new in-patient hospice.  “I can’t do sponsored walks or runs but I wanted to do something,” said Josie who last year raised £1000 by having her head shaved.

Her handmade Christmas wreaths, decorations, coasters and gift bags are on sale at the Willow Burn Christmas Fair at St Bede’s School in Lanchester on Saturday 21 November from 1-4pm.

Willow Burn CEO Helen Mills said: “The detail and quality of Josie’s work is incredible. She had never done craft work like this before but picked it up so quickly. She used to work on assembly lines and thinks that is where she developed her dexterity.”

Josie said she was frightened before her first visit to Willow Burn. “When I first came here I cried because I thought I was coming here to die. Then I cried when I left because I wanted to come back. Now when I go home I start to write the date I’m in next,” she said.  “I just wish people could come and see that it’s not what’s in their mind. It’s the people who work here. They’re out of this world. They’re special.”

When Josie has finished her work for Christmas she is going to turn her attention to a bag of material sent to her by The All-in-One Company from Ashington in Northumberland.  “We’d heard about Josie’s special skills so thought she might be able to do something with our off cuts,” said company founder Kate Dawson.

Willow Burn Hospice has treasured the lives of more than 10,000 patients in County Durham since 1989.  Proceeds from fund-raising support its present services – including the Sir Tom Cowie Day Hospice which opened in July 2014. It was the first stage of an ambitious transformation programme, planned to be completed by 2020, which include the building of a £2.2m in-patient hospice to increase the number of beds from four to six.

“People have been so generous over the years even when money has been tight,” said Katherine Luke, Willow Burn’s Income Generation and Marketing Manager. “Public support and donations are the only way we can continue and improve the care and facilities we provide for our patients, like Josie, and their families when they really need us most.”