One of the ways a local newspaper can make a difference in the community is by campaigning for something it believes in.
The Southern Reporter’s biggest campaigns in recent years saw us highlighting the need for fundraising for the Margaret Kerr Unit, which was to be built next to the Borders General Hospital.
The palliative care unit, the first of its kind in the area, was opened in January last year and the facility and its staff have been universally praised by patients and relatives alike.
The building offers an oasis of calm, a peaceful environment in which specially-trained staff can provide the best of care.
And in this Local Newspaper Week, we spoke to staff at the unit.
Clare Oliver, fundraising manager for the unit, told us: “The Southern Reporter was fantastic in supporting the appeal for money that we required to build the Margaret Kerr Unit.
“They got on board straight away, covering all our big events such as our public appeal launch. They also ran regular updates on the funding and how we were progressing.
“And, of course, they also gave fantastic coverage of people who have fundraised for us, sharing photographs and talking about the donations people have raised, so they really helped to keep the momentum of the appeal going.”
Locum consultant in palliative care, Dr Annabel Howell, added: “It was across a wide range. Every week you would look at The Southern and you would discover something about the appeal and its progression. It certainly made a large impact on the Borders.
“People felt that it was their unit, we were building it for the people of the Borders.”
What we in The Southern did not know, of course, was how important the unit became to one of our own, photographer Alastair Watson, who spent some time there after being diagnosed with cancer. He died in October last year, shortly after turning 60.
His son Gareth told us: “I found the Margaret Kerr Unit to be somewhat unique.
“It not only allows you to visit your relative openly during their illness, it also provides you with a very comfortable, private and relaxing environment.
“During my father’s time in the Margaret Kerr Unit I felt my father was treated with great respect, the staff are extremely friendly & helpful, yet behind every smile is a constant level of professionalism.
“Questions were answered honestly and there was always continuous assistance when it was required.
“We in the Borders are privileged to have such a facility available to us.”
The unit no longer actively fundraises, but money keeps coming in, donated by Borderers whose lives have been fundamentally touched by the marvellous work of the staff. It goes towards funding flowers, therapy sessions for patients from the Lavender Touch, complimentary drinks for visiting relatives and there are big plans for the garden area.
The Margaret Kerr Unit continues to provide its ongoing unique service to Borderers, such as Mary Elsdon of St Boswells.
You can read about her story later this week – with interviews with unit staff and Mary’s family.