IT’S at this time of year that we remember that we really are a 24/7 operation.

Some of our services take a break over Christmas so that staff and patients can spend time with their families, but our vital services don’t pause - St Teresa’s Hospice doesn’t close for a single day over Christmas.

It’s an exciting time for another reason: we’ll be welcoming our new nurse consultant, Sheila Dawson, in the New Year.

Sheila is bringing with her a wealth of experience and expertise in palliative care that is going to further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our team.

Anyone passing through Darlington can’t fail to spot our Giving to Life Tree in the Cornmill Centre.

Every year, the shopping centre management donate their massive Christmas tree for us to fill with messages of love and joy.

We’re only able to run this institution thanks to incredible support from our volunteers.

While every single person who volunteers does it whole-heartedly, I’d like to especially mention Margaret Grey.

Margaret has been one of our volunteers for about as long as there’s been a hospice, and every year she does more than her share of volunteer work for a variety of causes, and when we need someone at short notice (sometimes less than an hour beforehand!), it’s usually Margaret who steps up.

Even among the shining stars who are our volunteers, Margaret stands out.

** Things are gearing-up for our annual Christmas Cracker concert! For the first time in quite a while, the concert is back at the Dolphin Centre. Tickets are now on sale for the chance to see some of the most talented performers in the region on December 22.

Our Light up a Life service will take place on the following day. We’ve been very moved by the many people who have sent tributes and have dedicated a light on our Christmas trees to the memory of a loved one. We look forward to seeing you all at the service on December 23 at the Dolphin Centre.**

We’ve made no secret of the fact that we know Santa Claus very well indeed, and this Christmas we’ve been helping him out with his letters to children in the area.

As a result, there are over a hundred letters winging their way to houses all across the country, and a few are even going abroad!

It’s not just the kids who’ll be getting them either; there are some very lucky dogs out the too!

Merry Christmas everyone.