A MAMMOTH effort by companies from across Oxfordshire next week will see 200 dedicated NHS volunteers rewarded for their loyal service with 200 jam-packed strawberry cream teas.

Starting on Monday, each of the 200 helpers will get a beautifully packaged afternoon tea box containing a homemade fruit scone with strawberry jam and cream, freshly-picked strawberries and much more delivered to their home.

The recipients are the unpaid volunteers at Oxford’s four major NHS hospitals – the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, and the Horton General Hospital in Banbury.

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These dedicated helpers work as hospital guides, on the helpdesk, in the wards and even help with important administrative and clerical duties.

The volunteers who run a fundraising bookstall last year raised more than £21,000 which all goes towards new hospital equipment.

They do all these jobs year-round purely in order to help the NHS institutions which help so many others.

Now it is their turn to be thanked.

Oxford Mail:

File photo of John Radcliffe help desk volunteer Douglas Howell. Picture: Lucy Ford

Bridget Daly, who is volunteer services co-ordinator for Oxford University Hospitals trust which runs all four hospitals, said: “Volunteers are a very big part of the hospitals for staff, and also for patients and visitors.

“Most volunteers come in weekly and give their time freely to helping others and we are so lucky to have such dedicated people.

“Helping as a volunteer enhances the work of the multi-disciplinary teams especially on the wards – which deal mostly with patients suffering from dementia and other degenerative diseases which involves comforting and reassuring patients during their hospital stay – and all our volunteers deliver compassionate excellence.

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“So, once a year, we like to organise a strawberry cream team as a way to say ‘thank you’ to them.

“Unfortunately, due to the current situation we are unable to do this, so we are hoping to say ‘thank you’ in a different way and to spread a little bit of kindness to the volunteers who do so much to in helping others all year round.”

In order to ‘say thank you in a different way’, Ms Daly has recruited the help of Oxford Fine Dining, who will now be delivering the annual cream teas straight to the volunteers' homes.

The company has already been working with the hospitals during lockdown, making and delivering up to 250 meals a day to staff staying in local hotels, unable to go home for fear of infecting their families.

Oxford Mail:

Sue Randall, managing director of Oxford Fine Dining, said: “The prospect of preparing traditional afternoon teas, no problem.

"Delivering them to 200 individual households across Oxfordshire in one afternoon is an unusual challenge to say the least!

“However, we knew we had to do whatever it took to support this event.”

So, the company has called in a huge host of favours.

Millets Farm near Abingdon is donating 200 homemade fruit scones and 50 punnets of freshly-picked strawberries.

Events staff at Bodleian Libraries will be helping deliver the teas.

Flowers by Kirsty is creating 120 mini floral bouquets to accompany the ladies’ afternoon tea boxes, as well as helping with deliveries.

Oxford Mail:

Grape Minds is supplying bottles of local craft beer for the gentlemen’s afternoon tea boxes, as well as offering their time to deliver.

Noods bakery is supplying homemade blondies and brownies, and the Oxford Fine Dining staff themselves are making 800 finger sandwiches and supplying hand-crafted chocolates.

Ms Randall added: “Our staff are currently on furlough, however they have been volunteering their time to support the Oxford hospitals from the beginning of the lockdown.

“Once our staff have prepared the 800 finger sandwiches on Monday, we will begin the task of packaging them ready for delivery. It would be useful to know how Father Christmas maps his delivery routes as that is the next important task!”

Even Radio Horton at the Horton hospital has been working with Oxford Fine Dining to get some afternoon teas for its volunteers.

Trustee Sam Smette said: “Radio Horton are extremely grateful to have been part of this kind gesture from Oxford Fine Dining and the voluntary services team."