The Weekend Sun: 3 October 2014


Providing the basics makes the difference

In life-threatening situations the last thing people think about is gathering that the necessities for an overnight or lengthy stay in hospital, but a Tauranga couple are covering the basics with a personal care kit.

Gary and Chris Bishell are constantly fielding calls from various departments within Tauranga hospital for their patient emergency toiletry kits.

Chris had the idea for the kits four years ago when Gary, a Mount Maunganui St John shift manager, had to rush a patient to hospital.

There was no time to gather basic toiletries for the hospital stay.

“I imagined what it would be like to be in hospital without a few basic items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, comb, and shampoo and conditioner, with no one to provide these items for me.“ says Chris.

“So I set about approaching local hotel chains, dentists, supermarkets and anyone I could think of to supply a small range of basic items to include in a bag to give to patients facing that situation.“

Chris made up 24 packs, sewing bags together to put everything in, and gave them to Gary, who took them to the Emergency Department for distribution.

“By the end of the week they were gone and I had more orders.“ says Chris.

To date the Bishells have made and distributed 4,722 kits to patients and their caregivers, free of charge.

The situation started to become a financial burden for the couple, so Chris registered for a charity, P.E.T Charitable Trust, to apply for funds.

“I was so grateful to Todd Gower Funeral Service, who came on board as a major sponsor for the project and allowed us to keep going.

“With their help we have been able to buy the bags and most of the items from wholesalers.“

Paula Williamson from Todd Gower Funeral Services says it’s a privilege to be a part of Chris and Gary‘s project.

“They’re are amazing people who do so much good work.

It’s our way of giving back to the community.“

Most of the kits are supplied to patients admitted to Intensive Care and Coronary Care unit at Tauranga Hospital and Chris says the demand just keeps coming.

As the project relies on donations, all offers of help – both financial and of donated goods – are welcome.


NZ Herald Article: 21 May 2015

Emergency toiletries given freely

21 May, 2015 2:12pm


Chris Bishell, left, started a charity that has provided more than 6000 toiletry kits to patients at Tauranga Hospital, with the help of funding from Paula Williamson, of Todd Gower Funeral Services.

A Mount Maunganui woman’s mission to bring comfort to those admitted to hospital in emergency situations has reached a new milestone.

For the past five years, Chris Bishell has provided personal care kits to those who have been admitted to Tauranga Hospital, under acute or emergency situations, without the chance to gather their toiletries.

Chris has noticed a continual growth in demand with two additional wards approaching her recently, keen for a supply of her kits, which contain basic toiletries, such as small shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush and paste, a comb and a razor for men. There are children’s kits too, inside pencil cases.

The kits are distributed in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, Coronary Care Unit, surgical, medical, paediatric and orthopaedic wards, as well as the Admissions Planning Unit.

The hospital’s transit lounge and Mental Health Services for Older Persons’ ward are now also receiving the kits.

“I deliver on a need-be basis,” Chris says. “The wards liaise with me when they need more supplies.”

Chris says it all started after a conversation with her ambulance officer husband, Gary, who told her how people rushed to hospital often couldn’t gather their belongings.

Chris says she “pretty much begged and borrowed” to get the service, called Patient Emergency Toiletries (PET), up and running.

“I would go on Trade Me and on-sell things, and I put the word out to people holidaying, that I needed those little shampoo and body wash bottles from hotels.

“But it grew too big, and it wasn’t a registered charity,” says Chris who funded PET herself for two years.

She needed a long-term funder, and Paula Williamson of Todd Gower Funeral Services was up for it.

“Paula came on board. I wouldn’t still be doing this if it weren’t for her. She was my saviour,” Chris says.

Paula describes Chris as an inspiration. “Supporting Chris’ charitable endeavours is an excellent way to give back to the community,” she says.

PET is now a registered charity. Chris has no plans to stop any time soon, despite it often being a thankless task.

“We don’t do it for recognition, we do it because it’s needed. If they weren’t needed, we’d stop doing it,” she says.

The fact demand continues to grow shows how important the kits are, she says.

“I think the toiletry kits help people too with their social recovery, and assist with their rehabilitation. It gives me the warm fuzzies to do this.

“I would like to thank family and friends who help to fill the packs, and the public for the donated goods.”