Published
2 April 2024

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A day in the life of a hospice housekeeper

Housekeeper Tracey Cooke holds her chiuahaha Casey in St Christopher's Education Building

Tracey from our Housekeeping team tells us about her role at the hospice

Within the vibrant walls of our Centre for Awareness and Response to End of Life (CARE), one individual stands as the quiet force behind the scenes – Tracey Cooke, the unsung hero with a personal connection to the hospice that drew her to join our team.

Her connection with the hospice is deeply personal, rooted in family ties and a desire to turn a painful
memory into a purposeful career. Before joining St Christopher’s six years ago, Tracey worked as both a shop assistant and a teaching assistant. However, the turning point came when her sister spent her final days at the hospice, leaving an indelible mark.

Her initial hesitation, fuelled by preconceptions and painful memories, was palpable. Her mother, influenced by the shadow of grief, tried to dissuade her. She had preconceptions about it being a depressing place, however, the pull toward St Christopher’s persisted.

“When the time did come that I thought ‘I’m gonna give it a go,’ my mum, bless her, wasn’t around, so I thought ‘I’ll try,’” Tracey says.

Revisiting the hospice where her sister died was initially overwhelming. But Tracey found solace and purpose within these walls. She started by working in the public-facing areas before moving to the laundry team. Now she oversees our education space, which opened three years ago. Taking on the role of housekeeper for CARE in 2021, Tracey stepped into a domain where her love for the job, camaraderie with colleagues, and a profound sense of responsibility converged. “I love working over here, I get on with the staff, and I can get on with what I need to do,” she says.

Tracey begins work at 7am and as she’s the only one in the building at this time, she can prioritise the spaces hosting functions before moving onto her routine tasks. Although it’s predominantly a space for education and community engagement, the building’s high-ceiling atrium has also hosted quizzes, concerts, patient’s birthday parties, fashion shows and even a wedding fair. One consistent, however, is that it’ll be Tracey working to get CARE back into shape for the next event.

The scale of the centre often surprises visitors and colleagues alike. “When they have the course or functions on here, I get to see different people, and they pass comment and say things like ‘This is so lovely, do you clean this on your own?’” she says, smiling.

A photo of St Christopher's CARE from the outside
St Christopher’s Centre for Awareness and Response to End of Life opened in 2021

It’s the vibrancy of CARE during these events which bring Tracey immense joy. The bustling energy, a reflection of her efforts. She’s developed relationships and rapport with both visitors, staff and volunteers,
and her role is crucial to supporting this environment. “I see the building almost as mine and treat it as my own house,” Tracey explains, underscoring the pride she takes in her work.

Her role extends beyond the physical upkeep; it’s a labour of love. On some of the more quieter days in the Centre, she’ll bring in her dog, Casey, a chihuahua.

Tracey Cooke stands as a beacon of cheerful resilience, turning personal loss into a source of strength. Her journey at St Christopher’s is a testament to the transformative power of purpose and the profound impact one individual can have on the heartbeat of a hospice dedicated to education, community, and compassionate care.

Our dynamic centre is available to organisations and individuals for hire. To find out more email h.priest@stchristophers.org.uk

:: This story was from our Spring/Summer issue of Connect magazine. To read the full magazine, or to sign up to receive future editions, please click here.

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