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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Volunteers crucial to success of Ulverston hospice charity shops

WITH just a fifth of its budget coming from the NHS, Ulverston’s St Mary’s Hospice relies heavily on other sources of income to keep going.

St Mary’s newest charity shop may have been open less than a year, but it hasn’t taken long for the team to get things running like a well-oiled machine.

The hospice relies on its charity shops to provide 14 per cent of its annual funding, but in order to do that it needs an army of volunteers willing to give up their time for a good cause – and I went along one day last week to see what was involved.

Once a box of donated goods arrives in store in New Market Street, Ulverston, the clothes are quickly sorted, steamed, sized and sold on.

From well presented window displays to great bargains on designer brands, the shop could rival the slickest of high street chain stores.

A recent donation of two Radley Handbags, which can fetch up to £200 when brand new, had hopeful customers queuing up before opening time to snatch them up.

Clothes and books that don’t make it on to the shop floor are quickly passed on or recycled, which ensures no donations are ever refused and everything is put to good use. Niche items, including a recently donated kilt complete with sporran and skean dhu knife, are sold on Ebay in the hope of getting a good price from a specialist buyer.

Longtime volunteer Frances Frew believes the shop has gone from strength to strength since relocating to the New Market Street premises, but said the team could always do with new recruits: “The problem with the old shop is the stairs were very steep and it was very damp, but here everything is newly decorated and it smells fresh, it is working really well.

“The more people that volunteer the better, at one stage we didn’t have enough volunteers so we had to close on some days and we lost custom.”

St Mary’s retail manager Emma Athersmith said the hospice is always looking for new shop volunteers, regardless of age or experience: “We wouldn’t be able to keep our shops open if it weren’t for our volunteers.

“They do a wide variety of jobs from staffing the till, to running the shop floor and pricing up items.

“We are looking to keep our shops open more over the weekend and we need as many volunteers as possible to do that.”

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