Volunteers' trolley brings 'humanity'... and a glass of wine

Every day the clinking of wine glasses and the tinkle of ice can be heard throughout the palliative care ward at Greenwich Hospital.

The refreshing noise comes courtesy of the dedicated Happy Hour Trolley volunteer team. Seven days a week, before lunch begins they set up their brightly coloured trolley and prepare to serve patients and their visitors a drink with a chocolate or crackers and cheese – all at no charge.

Whether it’s a gin and tonic, a sparkling wine, a soothing Baileys or a chilled lemonade, there’s something to suit all tastes. And for years now the daily trolley has proved popular with hundreds of patients, their families and friends.

Joe Hockey, volunteers, award, Greenwich Hospital

Life to the full to the very end

Along with the fresh meals cooked in the onsite kitchen, the Happy Hour Trolley supports people with terminal illnesses to live life to the full until the very end. The volunteers always work in pairs – one pours the drinks while the other chats with patients and their families – alongside the multidisciplinary palliative care teams made up of medical, nursing, allied health and pastoral care staff.

The key to the service’s success, according to Volunteer Leader for Greenwich and Neringah, Keren Bateman, is that each of the volunteers has experienced the loss of a loved one or been touched by palliative care.

“They really connect with the patients and their friends and families because of that, showing their passion and their compassion,” she said. “It’s about more than the trolley and the drinks – it’s a device for walking around and showing humanity to people at this very hard time. It generates good will.”

North Sydney Community Awards

This powerful combination of dedication and compassion saw 10 of the Happy Hour Trolley volunteers recognised at Joe Hockey’s recent North Sydney Community Awards, hosted by television personality Melissa Doyle. The Federal Treasurer and Member for North Sydney has held the event for the past 11 years to acknowledge the achievements of people who assist the North Sydney community and go out of their way to help their fellow residents.

Delivering the awards in person, Mr Hockey paid tribute to those people who dedicate their time and energy to support others.

“We rely more and more on people in the community to do the heavy lifting for those people who are most vulnerable,” he said. “There’s an old saying that the most sacred gift that you can give to another person, after your love, is your labour and these people exemplify that.”

Helps create 'relaxed atmosphere'

Staff at Greenwich Hospital regularly receive positive feedback about the drinks service from patients and their visitors for the relaxed atmosphere it helps create. Family and friends often time their visits to coincide with the Happy Hour Trolley to catch up with the volunteers and enjoy time with their loved ones.

“It’s important to have something so human happening at such a strange time,” said Keren. “Having drinks together is a regular family ritual but in a palliative care ward it can seem such a long way away.

“These volunteers are ordinary people who make extraordinary things happen.”