Hospice fundraiser takes new top post

thisisoxfordshire: Jo Mitchell at Helen and Douglas House Buy this photo Jo Mitchell at Helen and Douglas House

SHE has helped raise millions of pounds for one of Oxford’s best loved charities.

Now Helen and Douglas House head of fundraising Jo Mitchell is to move on after eight years working for the East Oxford based children’s respite hospice.

Mrs Mitchell, 54, will take up a post as executive director of the Shipton-on-Stour based SMA Trust, which funds research into spinal muscular atrophy.

She said she would be “extremely sad” to leave the hospice.

Mrs Mitchell said: “There have been so many high points.

“One was the 25th anniversary.

“Before that Helen House had been around for a long time, then Douglas House opened and there was a while when they were operating quite separately.

“Then we became Helen and Douglas House, rather than Helen House and Douglas House, and the anniversary saw the two houses really coming together for the first time.”

When Mrs Mitchell started as community fundraising manager, the fundraising team consisted of just herself and one other – now there are 22 people working full and part time.

And one of the hospice’s major fundraisers, Childish Things, had just taken place for the first time.

It’s now in its ninth year and raises tens of thousands each year for the cause.

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Mrs Mitchell said: “It has become such a really important source of income for the charity, apart from being a great evening.

“That sort of thing is what helps you to feel much more secure about the future of fundraising.”

She said charities had become increasingly competitive, making the task of raising money more and more difficult.

Each year the team at Helen and Douglas House need to bring in a minimum of £3m, to contribute to the hospice’s running costs.

Mrs Mitchell said: “It gets tougher and tougher all the time, then you combine that with the recession and it means you are having to work harder to stand still.”

Throughout her time at the hospice, Mrs Mitchell has taken regular shifts on the care team.

Mrs Mitchell is a mother herself with two grown up children but tragically also lost two babies, one aged three days and one three weeks, who were born very prematurely and never left hospital.

She said: “Although my babies dying was for very different reasons, I hope it has made me have more empathy with our families and given a little inkling into some of the things that these parents are going through.”

Her last day at the hospice will be Friday, October 26.

Mrs Mitchell said: “I will always think of it as a very special time of my life and it’s going to be very difficult leaving.

“I have never had such a strong emotional attachment to a job in my life before.”

Helen and Douglas House chief executive Tom Hill said: “Jo has worked tirelessly over the years to develop the fundraising and public relations functions at Helen and Douglas House. We will miss her very much, but recognise the importance of the role that she is going to play at SMA Trust and wish her every success.”

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