WITH a level of planning usually reserved for a military operation 800 finger sandwiches, 200 brownies, 200 scones and 50 punnets of fresh-picked strawberries were produced this week to thank Oxfordshire hospital volunteers.

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The culinary treats, along with flowers and beer, were packed and delivered as a special afternoon tea to the homes of 200 unpaid helpers at the John Radcliffe, Churchill, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Banbury’s Horton General, who would usually enjoy a group celebration to mark national volunteers week.

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Bringing the whole thing together was the combined efforts of Bridget Daly, volunteer services co-ordinator for Oxford University Hospitals trust which runs the hospitals, and a plethora of local businesses led by Oxford Fine Dining.

Preparations took place on Monday with final assembly and delivery the following day.

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Sue Randell, managing director of Oxford Fine Dining, said: “Everyone was briefed with their task for the day, social distancing measures reiterated and issued their delivery schedules.

"Vehicles were loaded up with the afternoon teas, flowers for the ladies and bottles of beer for the men and by 11am the teams were on their way.”

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Among the hospital volunteers, who do everything from greeting patients and visitors on help desks to keeping spirits high with hospital radio, was Jean Smith from Headington.

In a message thanking organisers she said the food was ‘absolutely delicious’ and the flowers a ‘really nice touch', adding: “It is nice to be appreciated even though we all enjoy volunteering.”

Maurice Owidi, whose afternoon tea was delivered to his home in Wantage, wrote: “I just want to thank you for the effort to get out this to us.”

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Yvonne Page, from Banbury, said: “The selection of goodies inside the box was amazing and so enjoyable, the jar of flowers were the icing on the cake for me.

“Thank you again for such a kind thought and hope it won’t be too long before we return to ‘normal’.”

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Making up the tasty boxes were homemade fruit scones and strawberries donated by Millets Farm near Abingdon, Noods bakery made 400 blondies and brownies, and the Oxford Fine Dining staff themselves made four finger sandwiches for every box and supplied hand-crafted chocolates.

As an added thanks Flowers by Kirsty created mini floral bouquets to accompany the ladies’ boxes, while Grape Minds and Cotswold Brew Co. supplied bottles of local craft beer for the men's boxes.

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Ms Randell said: “It has been amazing to be able to pull this event together and say thank you to so many NHS volunteers. It couldn’t be done without the support of my amazing OFD team, our event partners and OFD friends.

“Thank you Bridget Daly, NHS Voluntary Services Coordinator, for making that initial enquiry and giving us the opportunity to bring joy to so many people including ourselves”