When Elizabeth Taylor started volunteering, a gallon of petrol cost 34p, a pint of beer 16p and you could buy 20 pints of milk for £1.
That was 50 years ago in 1971, the year Britain went decimal and Elizabeth – then aged 17 – started supporting the Doncaster Cancer Detection Trust (DCDT), helping the legendary Jeanette Fish, who later led the fundraising drive to bring Balby’s St John’s Hospice off the drawing board.
Teenage Elizabeth, from Wheatley, did everything she was asked, including selling raffle tickets and attending countless galas. She fitted her voluntary role around her weekday job working for Doncaster’s school meals and then for 25 years in the canteen of the town’s now closed SR Gent clothing factory.
Now, more jumble sales than she can remember later, kind-hearted Elizabeth, 67, is celebrating half a century of selflessly helping others and being the hospice’s longest serving volunteer.
She said: “Looking back I think the death of a cousin from leukaemia at a young age prompted me to get involved with the DCDT. I got on well with Jeanette Fish who had been motivated to start the Trust after the death of one of her friends at a time when no cancer treatment facilities existed in the town.
“The first piece of medical equipment we bought was an endoscope in 1972, but the pinnacle was raising the £1million needed to build St John’s Hospice, which opened in October 1992.”
Elizabeth has carefully chronicled everything purchased by the DCDT through the years – the last being some colposcopy equipment in 2008 – which she hopes to publish in a special book capturing key milestones in her half a century of volunteering. She now helps out at the hospice as often as she can and has no intention of stopping.
“I feel very privileged to have been a part of the tremendous local effort that went into making St John’s a reality. It’s a wonderful place and a great asset for Doncaster”, said Elizabeth.
Staff at St John’s presented Elizabeth with gifts to mark a momentous 50 not out.
Hospice fundraiser Lindsey Richards, from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, said: “If you added together all the time that Elizabeth has freely given since 1971 it wouldn’t be measured in months, it would be years.
“She is a remarkable person and we are all very proud of her.”