A YEAR of activities to mark the 40th anniversary of St Margaret’s Hospice Care have marked the start of a year of celebrations.

Staff, volunteers and supporters who have played a part in the charity’s success over the past four decades were reunited at tea parties at the hospices in Taunton and Yeovil on Friday.

Among those joining the party were June Fenn, St Margaret's first nursing officer in 1982, and volunteer Elizabeth Yates, who helped raise funds to build the hospice in Bishop's Hull.

St Margaret's chief executive Ann Lee said: "We’re so excited about our 40th anniversary. I want to pay tribute to the work of all the volunteers and staff over those years who have made St Margaret’s the phenomenal organisation it is.

"St Margaret’s has always been a pioneer and at the forefront of change. From harnessing technology to ensure greater connectivity across the county, for patients, healthcare providers and the hospice, to introducing a 24-hour advice line, we've always sought to innovate so that we can offer the best quality of care for the people of Somerset.

"Our work is so important now, especially as there is increasing demand for palliative care.

"I’m optimistic about the future for St Margaret’s over the next 40 years because of all the work our local community does to support us.

"We'll be working in partnership with GPs, district nurses, nursing homes and community hospitals to make sure people don’t have to face a life-limiting condition alone and frightened."

In 1978, a dedicated and enthusiastic team believed improvements were needed in the care of people with terminal illnesses in Somerset.

The following year, Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement, gave a talk at Dillington House and on January 7, 1980, St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice was registered as a charity and a major fundraising drive began. The first event, a cheese and wine party at Taunton's County Hotel in Taunton raised £400.

Funds steadily trickled in and the first nursing officer, June Fenn, was appointed in June 1982 to establish a home care service, initially covering a three-mile radius of Taunton.

Since then, thousands of people have worked, volunteered or raised funds to enable St Margaret’s to provide care and support to patients and their families during their precious last months, weeks and days.

Today St Margaret’s has around 350 staff and 1,200 volunteers and last year supported more than 4,900 people.

Throughout 2020, commemorative pin badges and ruby sunflower seeds will be on sale at St Margaret’s charity shops.

Sheppy’s Cider will be raising funds for St Margaret’s by donating 20p from every special edition bottle of raspberry cider sold at their farm shop at Bradford-on-Tone.

Tickets for the fundraising Great Somerset Ruby Ball, at the Cooper Associates County Ground in Taunton on Friday, October 16 are are available via charlotte.hayward@st-margarets-hospice.org.uk

This summer Colour Runs at Taunton Racecourse on Sunday, May 17 and Wincanton Racecourse on Sunday, June 21, will culminate with a ruby paint party.