A friend indeed for those in need in Sheffield

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For 25 years Joan Searles has been patrolling a Sheffield hospital entrance – helping worried parents find their way on arrival.

And in that time, 85-year-old Sheffield Children’s Hospital volunteer Joan has had just one day off, reluctantly calling in sick when she had the flu.

Joan Searles who has volunteered at Sheffield Childrens Hospital'showing Lewis Marshall and his dad Mike which direction to go in

Joan Searles who has volunteered at Sheffield Childrens Hospital'showing Lewis Marshall and his dad Mike which direction to go in

The loyal pensioner, of Netherthorpe, has now been presented with a cake and given a standing ovation by colleagues to recognise her years of service - with Simon Morritt, hospital chief executive, describing her as a ‘truly remarkable woman’.

Joan, a retired auxiliary nurse, volunteers as a ‘meeter and greeter’ at the hospital, having joined in 1988 after hearing an appeal for help.

She has since been the first port of call for thousands of families – and once welcomed Dore’s London 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, a patron of the hospital, when she paid a visit.

Joan said: “I’m here every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the year.

“I think a couple of years ago I had a few days off when I came down with a bit of the flu, but that was the only time I didn’t make it in.

“I’m not one for making a fuss about things like this and there are people working at this hospital doing a lot more important things than I do.

“If there ever comes a time when I’m not enjoying it then I think I’ll stop, but I still find it interesting and it’s a lot better than staying at home doing jigsaw puzzles.”

Mr Morritt said: “Joan is a truly remarkable woman.

“I would just like to say a massive thank you on behalf of everyone at the hospital and congratulations to Joan for reaching this landmark.”

Sarah Knightley, volunteer co-ordinator at the hospital trust, handed Joan a cake and card as a gesture of thanks.

She said: “Volunteers like Joan are so valuable.

“She is extremely reliable and is always willing to go that extra mile. We have more than 100 volunteers working at the hospital in a variety of roles and I don’t think anyone is even close to Joan in terms of how long she’s been volunteering here.

“We are currently recruiting new volunteers and we would really encourage applications from retired people. It is incredibly rewarding work. We also run social events four times a year to ensure volunteers get the chance to meet each other and to let us thank them.

“We would definitely like to find a few more people like Joan.”

For details, email volunteering@sch.nhs.uk – applications for new volunteers close tomorrow.