Maggie's Fife: Centre's doors re-open after pandemic and fundraising events return

Meet the team at our Maggie's: Melanie Bunce (Benefits Advisor), Hannah Grüneberg (Counselling Psychologist), Alison Allan (Centre Head), Debbie McCrae (Cancer Support Specialist), Jen Ewing (Cancer Support Specialist).Meet the team at our Maggie's: Melanie Bunce (Benefits Advisor), Hannah Grüneberg (Counselling Psychologist), Alison Allan (Centre Head), Debbie McCrae (Cancer Support Specialist), Jen Ewing (Cancer Support Specialist).
Meet the team at our Maggie's: Melanie Bunce (Benefits Advisor), Hannah Grüneberg (Counselling Psychologist), Alison Allan (Centre Head), Debbie McCrae (Cancer Support Specialist), Jen Ewing (Cancer Support Specialist).
The doors to our Maggie’s Centre are open once more.

Two years on from a pandemic which saw all cancer support moved online, the building in the grounds of Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, is re-emerging into a different world, but with the same welcome as ever.

Anyone can drop in without an appointment and take a seat at the kitchen table which sits at the heart of every Maggie’s Centre.

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Reconnecting with people living with a cancer diagnosis, as well as sponsors and fundraisers is a gradual process as the charity adapts to a post-COVID world, but it is now able to look ahead to the return of key events and a new way of providing support.

Adam Kent (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Adam Kent (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Adam Kent (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

The centre is now fully into its “build back phase” as it prepares to celebrate its 16th anniversary at the end of 2022 - a milestone anniversary.

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Maggie’s was built on the back of a remarkable fundraising effort by people across Fife, and led by the Fife Free Press.

Its unique building - designed by the late Zaha Hadid - still catches the eye a decade and a half on, but it has always been about people rather than cutting edge architectural vision.

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Maggie's FifeMaggie's Fife
Maggie's Fife

And, opening the doors to one and all once more is a major step on the road back.

Alison Allan, centre head, admitted: “It is good to see people back in the building.

“We had 6000 visitors through the doors last year and we have the capacity to see more, and that includes people with a cancer diagnosis, and their family and friends who also may want support

“People are emerging but the world is a bit different. As life returns to something more familiar, this is a safe place people can come to.”

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Courses are up and running once more, and support is widely available to Fifers, but the model now is blended - giving people the option of face to face support, a phone call or online contact.

The experiences of the pandemic have helped to shape that approach.

Explained Alison: “COVID became the conversation rather than cancer - and there were parallels with isolation.

People with cancer can feel isolated - now they found themselves in enforced isolation.

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“There is no doubt people felt very isolated. They were not seeing anyone else.

“Some of our normal practices - face to face meetings - were not in place so we had to build up relationships by phone which is a very different approach.

“The centre still evolves around the ethos of the kitchen table, but we want to reach as many people in as many different ways as possible, so we have a more blended approach.

“We started with Zoom calls on a Friday - they are still going in a reduced format and, as a result, we saw people who might not have travelled to the centre so were able to help and support.

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“It’s all about connecting with people who might otherwise not have come in - whether that is for geographic reasons or health reasons related to Covid.”Maggie’s currently has two cancer support specialists, a benefits adviser, and a psychologist to help people living with cancer.

The other key role is fundraising manager - and for Adam Kent that has meant two challenging years,.

He was with Maggie’s Edinburgh when he was appointed to replace Tu Edwards just a every fundraising tap was switched off by the pandemic.

“Every charity took a hit as everything stopped,” he said. “We had events running that were all put on hold, and our entire strategy shifted to online fundraising.”

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Maggie’s moved quickly to embrace online fundraising to keep the centre operating, and enjoyed huge support from across the community.

With the pandemic easing, the focus is now returning to staging events.

“We had great success with our campaigns on Facebook - that was a huge strength of the organisation, and that work we can now build on .

“It worked in a big way to fill the void when people couldn’t stag events, runs marathons etc, but they could still walk 10,000 steps a day and turn that into a fundraiser, and many did.

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“Now it is all re-engaging with the community and meeting people who have been great supporters of the centre,” said Adam.

“Over the last few months people coming in telling us what they want to do to help It has been great to re-establish those contacts.”

Maggie’s has a firewalk scheduled for November, and it is bringing back its ladies lunch which has generated tens of thousands of £s for the charity of the years.

And the more successful the fundraising is, the more people it can help to support at the centre.

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Added Adam: “So much has changed and what people want to do has perhaps also changed a bit - it is challenging, but we are looking forward to hosting and supporting fundraising events again.”

That Maggie’s remains close to the hearts of so many Fifers puts it in a good place to re-establish a busy calendar of fundraisers, big and small,.

Last month a cheque for £1100 arrived courtesy of the Stephen Donelly memorial charity golf event - just one of a host of events organised by people across Fife as a way of supporting, and in many cases, saying thank you to the centre for its support.

The need for Maggie’s grows as more people live longer, and well, with cancer.

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The ethos of its founder can be felt sitting at the kitchen table sharing information, enjoying the support, or simply enjoying a warm, safe haven as a respite away from hospital corridors.

As she once wrote: “Above all what matters is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.”

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