Volunteer of the Month - September 2020 - Deb Fullbrook
Posted by Victoria Leedham
There’s a lot of love in the room when it comes to fundraiser and speaker Deb Fullbrook. A kinder, more warm-hearted or dedicated woman you’d struggle to meet. Partnered with hearing dog Elmo and married to Keith, the winning formula that is “Team Fullbrook” are always full of smiles and universally appreciated by those lucky enough to know them.
Colin Knight, Events Coordinator for South Hants Hearing Dogs fundraising branch, explains: “I first met Deb at the New Forest Great British Dog Walk in May 2019 where we were both volunteering as stewards. It was at this event that Community Fundraising Manager Nicholas Orpin enlisted me on to the South Hants Hearing Dogs committee, but little did I know then that Deb, Keith and Elmo were going to feature so prominently in almost every event to follow and that eighteen months later I’d regard all three as good friends.”
“Deb actually lives in Dorset so to be instrumental in all things South Hants is way beyond the call of duty - we joke that she has dual county citizenship! In all seriousness, I have sent countless emails since joining the committee seeking help with events and have yet to receive a negative response from Deb. Travelling distance and the time involved to attend has never seemed an obstacle. It’s genuinely difficult to do justice to her commitment.”
“As just a few examples, Deb stepped forward and offered to single-handedly cover Lymington Show when other hands were looking light on the ground. Last Christmas she and Keith made the round trip of 120 miles (nearly four hours of driving!) in what they call their ‘Moho’ (motorhome) and stayed overnight to attend a weekend-long Christmas Fair that was important to the group.”
Deb is someone who really picks up on things. Although extrovert in character and lots of fun, she’s sensitive to those around her and knew instantly that representing Hearing Dogs at Park Gate Primary School, where Colin is a governor, would be appreciated. “My school sponsors puppy Gwen and were keen to have a speaker, and ideally a demonstration, at an assembly in front of no less than 360 six to eleven year olds! Though initially wary of the numbers involved, Deb readily agreed, again travelled the 120 miles with Elmo, and of course had the children spellbound. As were my wife Sandy and I on a different occasion when Deb had us glued to the radio listening to a 40-minute interview praising the work of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and making us feel proud to be a cog in the wheel.”
Not only does Deb support events and speak on behalf of the charity, she has personally raised thousands in the five years she’s been registered as a volunteer. She generated well over £1,000 in sponsorship from abseiling Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower in 2018 and the same again by asking for donations rather than gifts to celebrate her milestone birthday last year. Her JustGiving page read:
"I count myself very lucky to have everything a girl could wish for - health, happiness, great friends, loving family, my soulmate Keith ..... and a rather large black Labrador who acts as my ears. Therefore, instead of presents, I'm asking for donations to Hearing Dogs so others can experience the practical and mental benefits of their own Gonkus Elmoticus. Each Hearing Dog costs £40,000 to £45,000 throughout their lifetime with no government help, all funds are raised by lovely people like you. So please give whatever you can - every little helps. Thanks so much Deb, and Elmo of course.”
It’s no surprise that Deb has made many friends through Hearing Dogs, nor that she’s the dynamo in bringing them together – especially when it’s to do with Elmo and his ‘Epic litter’ siblings.
Volunteer Sue Hagues says: “I love Deb’s enthusiasm and humour both in real life and on social media. She’s the driving force of Epic litters reunions and was delighted when it looked as if Aberdeen-based Ethan was going to be in the south of England earlier this year. Deb immediately started organising a get-together that was unfortunately thwarted by lockdown. Hopefully it can be rearranged and there’s no doubt Deb will be the person to make that happen.”
“Back in 2018 my husband John and I were looking for some dog-friendly beach recommendations around Swanage for a holiday. Deb not only gave us great suggestions but brought Elmo out to meet us with Merlin on the beach. It was a pleasure to meet and inspiring to hear her story first hand.”
At the recent New Forest Dogstival event Deb and Elmo took to the festival stage without a second’s hesitation, bringing to life our amazing work and Elmo taking a bow! Team Fullbrook then headed home to count the proceeds in COVID-secure mask and gloves! Deb is never too tired to miss an opportunity to promote Hearing Dogs or do something helpful; facts that didn’t escape Nicholas’ attention:
“It’s genuinely hard to remember back to when Deb wasn’t doing something for Hearing Dogs. If there was a time, how did I manage without her? She is a talented and passionate advocate for the charity. She has undertaken numerous talks, presentations and events with Elmo and Keith at her side. Deb heads up Hearing Dogs for Deaf People in Dorset and works very closely with South Hants too. She never hesitates to get stuck in and in most cases she has organised, attended and packed away an event before I even know about it!”
“Deb has galvanised support across the south coast and has even abseiled and hang-glided for the charity. OK – the hang-gliding was actually hanging onto the gazebo in a storm at Martin Clunes’ Buckham Fair, another selfless act of great courage!”
“Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic Deb has been active – checking in on her epic E-litter friends, helping in her local community, doing the 2.6 Challenge, and even starring in a video to represent Hearing Dogs for an online county show – all in support of the charity that is close to her heart. The truth is, she is close to the hearts of all those who have met her, know her and have the chance to work with her – myself very much included.”
Deb is a truly amazing woman who always jovially signs herself as “Team Fullbrook” to acknowledge that Keith and Elmo are an integral part of everything she does. She eloquently, engagingly and effectively spreads the word about Hearing Dogs and contributes to her local community as well. It’s no surprise that earlier this year she enrolled herself as a village volunteer to deliver prescriptions to vulnerable people who were shielding. Whilst making light that she was simply out getting some exercise, she knew for sure that her beloved hearing dog Elmo would raise a much needed smile.
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