Trustee talk: Right time to say a farewell to alms

Rhod Lofting is stepping down from the hospice charity he founded 17 years ago.

Both my wife and I lost our dads to cancer. Trying to get proper support for my father towards the end of his life proved difficult. There just wasn't any care within a reasonable distance. I realised that many other people also had to travel long distances to get treatment. So 17 years ago, I decided to set up Woking & Sam Beare Hospices.

I had no experience of the third sector before I started Woking Hospice, so I was thrown in at the deep end. It was very much a case of getting people in the area to show their support for a hospice. From the NHS's point of view, all that was required was the right person, proper equipment and adequate levels of pain control. I definitely learned a lot in a short space of time.

After being involved in the hospice for 17 years, I thought that it was time for me to step down from my position as chair. I am retiring on 12 September. The fact that I had founded the charity meant that I was very involved. I was doing it for the sheer love of it. To a certain extent, I was a damn nuisance.

Fundraising had become much more professional during my time with the hospice, and I thought that we would achieve our targets much better with a professional. All charities need to become more professional and sharpen up their fundraising.

David Perry, who is taking over as the new chair, doesn't have that same emotional involvement. He is an accountant for the hospice and has a lot of experience in the third sector. He was an obvious choice.

If you want to take a back seat, it's crucial that you have confidence in your team. The hospice will continue to flourish in good hands; I'll just stay on as a trustee for another year.

My experience at Woking Hospice taught me that if you use other people to guide you, then the sky is the limit in terms of what you can achieve. There were times when I thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but I got fantastic support.

Retirement will open new doors for me. To have the freedom to do what you want without restrictions is great. My family is saying "he's free at last".

I believe that half of the people who could benefit from a hospice don't have access to one. I sought to fix that. It has been an amazing experience and one I wouldn't have missed for the world.

- Interview by Dan Michel 

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