SALT OF THE EARTH: Meet Keith Taylor - Scarborough Hospital's Macmillan Health Champion

Being kind is good for us - it can be transformative not just for the recipient, but for the bearer of kindness too.

Scores of leading mental health charities and research papers cite the rich benefits of helping others, and the positive impact it can have on our self-esteem and sense of wellbeing.

Keith Taylor discussing care at Scarborough Hospital's Cancer Information Centre

Keith Taylor discussing care at Scarborough Hospital's Cancer Information Centre

Kind gestures can make us feel good and fulfilled, and presents unique opportunities to make new friends and connect with our communities in meaningful ways.

Doing good breeds happiness all round, and being kind already comes naturally to those who live on the Yorkshire Coast and residents right across North Yorkshire.

Scarborough News and Whitby Gazette, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and sister JPI Media titles in Yorkshire, have launched a major year-long campaign called Salt of the Earth to celebrate this, which will share inspiring stories and examples of the very easy but meaningful ways that we can all make somebody’s day brighter just by showing some kindness.

Many say that they don’t do much compared to other people, thinking of volunteers who have clocked up thousands of hours between them every single week, shrugging away the difference that they themselves make.

Salt of the Earth - Keith Taylor

Salt of the Earth - Keith Taylor

But it’s not about how much we do in a quantifiable sense - just showing a little bit of kindness can have an immeasurable, life-changing impact.

In the third week of our Salt of the Earth campaign, we meet Keith Taylor, a former personal banking manager whose days are spent very differently now ...

Keith, 81, is a Macmillan Health Champion and a volunteer in the Cancer Information and Support Centre at Scarborough Hospital.

He is one of the huge network of volunteers who willingly give up their time at hospitals across the county, and was recently a finalist for the Volunteer of the Year Award for York Training Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

No matter how hard things seem, Keith is one of the army of volunteers who will help you through

No matter how hard things seem, Keith is one of the army of volunteers who will help you through

Keith started volunteering with the Trust back in 2014, shortly after the refurbishment of Scarborough’s Macmillan Centre, which he was invited to formally open in December of that year.

In the summer months Keith willingly donates his time on Macmillan’s mobile support bus “Beryl”, which travels to various locations across the county including Richmond, Malton Cattle Market and the Nestle Factory in York.

Keith also initiates outreach work in local libraries such as Eastfield and Scarborough. He said: “We go out to appointments around 45 minute radius of Scarborough, I may not be flexible physically, but for as far as work I can, and do, go at short notice if someone doesn’t turn up.”

Keith became involved with the support centre after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009. He said: “I got involved because I’d seen such wonderful service, surgeon Claire McNaught was absolutely wonderful, I couldn’t have had better care.

“I initially started by volunteering on an ad-hoc basis, but within a month I was coming in on a Tuesday from 10am-1pm and Thursday 1-4pm.”

Keith said helping people can be very rewarding: “I was opening up one day when a small voice behind me said: “I’ve just been told I have cancer” so we came in here, I shut the door and I listened.”

Keith said letting people talk can make a real difference: “If I can find someone who comes in, has a cup of tea and leaves with a smile that’s all the reward I need.”

“Coming here helps me get out of bed in the morning,” Keith said with a smile. “And it keeps the old grey matter turning.”

Cancer Information Support Officer, Gemma Kellerman, said: “I’m quite new to the job, I’ve only been here since November, but Keith's help and his wisdom has been absolutely amazing. When Keith is here we can catch up with the other stuff we have to do.

He’s just brilliant, the time and energy he gives is amazing, anyone can come into our office for information and support, Keith is great at pointing people in the right direction.”

Keith’s charitable work doesn’t just extend to the hospital, he is also patient representative for Scarborough and Ryedale Palliative and end of Life Care Locality Group, a member of West Ayton surgery patient participation group and a trustee for Dr Smart’s Homes. Beverley Douthwaite, housekeeper for the homes said: “ He’s a very hands on, very caring man, he does go the extra mile.”

Jane Archer Cancer Care Centre manager and Cancer Information Manager said: “Keith has to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my entire life, he’s just Mr Helpful. I’m so proud that he’s been put forward for Salt of the Earth.

“Everyone I know thinks he’s wonderful. He’s so reassuring with people, he couldn’t be calmer, it just comes naturally to him to be helpful. He creates an amazing rapport with people which is obviously essential in a drop in service, and it’s not just the patients, the staff at the hospital really love him as well.”