Two of our retail volunteers, Fran and Denese spoke to us about their reasons for volunteering at the hospice and the difference it makes to them.
Fran Clark has been volunteering for Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice for the past 11 years – ever since she retired from a career as a messenger for the Cabinet Office.
Fran volunteers three mornings a week at the hospice’s main donation centre in Welling, and says the lovely people she’s met through her role have made a big difference to her life..
“I feel like I’m doing my bit for my local community”
“When retired early at the age of 62 back in February 2011 it was quite scary,” Fran says. “I like being busy. That’s why I walked into my local Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice shop and filled out a volunteer application before I’d even given up work.”
“I didn’t have any personal experience of the amazing work they do, but since then I’ve been lucky to meet some of the nurses and have visited the hospice. It’s nice to feel that as a volunteer I’m doing my bit for my local community.”
Fran started by sorting through donated clothes and items in the Welling hospice shop but then moved to the hospice warehouse just down the road. At this main donation centre a dedicated volunteer team carefully sort items donated by the public.
“It’s amazing the things people give,” Fran reveals. “We’ve had Victoria Beckham jeans come in before and recently a brand-new Versace children’s dress.”
“Even if items aren’t good enough quality to sell we add them to the ‘rag bags.’ It’s all money for the hospice.” Fran says that she gains a great deal from volunteering, including meeting friends from a wide range of backgrounds.
“I’ve met some lovely people through the hospice,” she says. “Currently I volunteer with a lady who used to work for the jobs and benefits office and another who was a primary school teacher. We share stories and chat about everything.”
“It’s the people who make the experience for me – that and knowing we make a difference. I’ll carry on volunteering for as long as I can and I’d recommend it to anyone.”
“Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose”
Denese D’Costa has been volunteering for the hospice since 2019, and knows all too well through personal experience the incredible work the charity does. Denese is part of the RePurpose team, where once-loved items of all kinds are restored or repurposed to sell in aid of the hospice.
“It was two years before I retired as an RE teacher that I learned first-hand about the incredible work of the hospice,” Denese says.
“Just after Christmas 2016 my mum had a fall and broke her hip. The doctors weren’t able to operate as she had a weak heart. I nursed her at home for over two months. Watching Mum die when there was nothing I could do was heart-breaking, but thankfully I had support from the amazing hospice community palliative nursing team.”
Denese struggled to come to terms with her loss, but after speaking to the hospice she was offered bereavement counselling. “When I needed help the hospice immediately responded. It made such a big difference to me. That’s why I was inspired to volunteer.”
Then Denese saw a leaflet about the hospice Repurpose project.
“I went to visit the workshop and signed up there and then,” Denese reveals. “I instinctively knew that this was the way I could raise some money and make a difference.”
“From sorting and unpacking donations, pricing items or repairing things, I didn’t mind what I did and loved volunteering as part of such a lovely team.”
When the COVID pandemic hit, Denese stopped volunteering for several months, but in early 2021 began working for RePurpose again from home, drafting and listing donated books to sell on eBay.
“I’ve since become the ‘book expert’ and it’s fascinating. I research information on the book, cleaning it if necessary, taking photos, drafting and listing online.”
“I sell books nationally and internationally. I have sold to Europe, America, and as far as China. In total we’ve raised £1,460 to date for the hospice through online book sales.”
“It’s wonderful to be able to give something back to the charity who gave me so much. Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me fulfilled.”