Gill: “I knew about the Charity but never thought it applied to me – I couldn’t believe the support”

Gill Crow’s dad was an on-call firefighter and she went on to work in Control herself for 24 years, so always knew about our Charity. However, she says she never expected the support on offer to both of them in retirement.

When you leave the fire service, you don’t leave our Charity – far from it. We’re there by your side for life, offering health and wellbeing support whatever your age or circumstances.

And that’s something Gill Crow wants to spread the word about now, as far and wide as possible.

Gill worked in Control with Cambridgeshire FRS for 24 years and had always known about our Charity, but never needed to call on us for support. Similarly, her dad Bernard – known to friends as Sep – was an on-call firefighter in Northamptonshire in the 1950s and 60s, but hadn’t experienced our help first-hand either.

However, when Gill got in touch recently to find out how we may be able to support her husband, neither she nor her dad expected the support they both received from there.

Donate now to support more people like Gill and her family

“My husband has Parkinson’s disease and I’m his carer,” says Gill. “I was in the fire service for 24 years, but it had never occurred to me that we’d still be eligible for support. I knew about the Charity of course, but I just never thought it applied to me.

“It suddenly came into my head and I thought I’d make an enquiry, just to see, never expecting the help that we received. I couldn’t believe it.”

Gill and her husband were invited to Harcombe House, our centre in Devon, for a week’s Rest and Recharge stay in July 2023, which she says was a “fantastic” break for both of them.

You can read more about our rest and recharge stays here.

“It was also a break for me, as my husband’s carer, and having our assistance dog with us was so good,” adds Gill.

“While I was down there I just kept thinking, ‘this would be so lovely for Dad and Maureen’. They wouldn’t have to even go anywhere, they could just stay put and enjoy the surroundings and the birds.”

Gill’s dad Sep, now 89, has been in hospital three times this year with congestive heart failure, and has struggled to come to terms with a new way of life since.

She says: “He’s always been really fit and has always worked as a gardener and handyman until the age of 84, but since then his body has started to let him down – but in his mind he still feels like he should be fit.

“He’s been really struggling to come to terms with it. Being no longer able to travel on coach holidays anymore it was wonderful to find out I could take him and my step-mum away for a few days to Harcombe House.

“Originally you were fairly booked up over summer, but we actually got a call back later that day and they’d had a cancellation in one of the disabled bungalows – we were so lucky.”

The break away, Gill says, was exactly what they needed. While her husband stayed at home this time, Gill accompanied her dad and his wife for the week.

“We stayed in a bungalow which was perfect for them, as well as being able to take meals on site, which were always really tasty!” says Gill. “We took my husband’s scooter down, along with my dad’s, so he and Maureen had one each and it just gave them so much independence. It was the highlight of their day, going for the meals in the main house.

“My step-mum, who’s 84, went swimming in the pool with me too, and she hasn’t done that for many years!

“The mornings aren’t good for my dad so I went to breakfast without them, and it was so nice to meet and chat with others staying there from across the fire community.

“Dad was then able to share a lot of his memories from the time in the fire service too – the bell on the wall at his house and being called out to shouts at the station down the road.”

Gill now hopes her story will remind others who have retired from a role in the fire service that our support is there for life.

“It made me realise, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been out of the fire service, this support is there for life. It’s amazing,” adds Gill.

“They couldn’t do enough for us, they just took the time. Thank you to The Fire Fighters Charity for special memories and a real boost for my loved ones at this difficult time.”

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, we may be able to help you. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or register for My Fire Fighters Charity now and visit the ‘Access Support’ tab.

You can also join our ‘Share Your Story’ Group in the app, by clicking on the ‘Groups’ tab, to chat to others who have received our support or enquire about sharing your own story.