A “priceless” charity shop volunteer has spoken of the moment he signed up and offered his services – on the very same day he moved to a seaside town.
Andrew Stewart was so taken by his glowing first impressions of Sheringham’s East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) store that he joined the team within hours of arriving in Norfolk.
The 61-year-old had not previously heard of EACH, having only just moved from Surrey. He popped into various charity shops during his first stroll through the town but his mind was quickly made up.
“The EACH one caught my eye straightaway,” said Andrew, who previously volunteered for Barnardo’s.
“There was something about it that appealed and I liked the idea of volunteering for a small, local charity rather than a national one. (Manager) Naomi (Munro) spoke to me about the different roles available and it just felt right.
“Everyone was welcoming and friendly and I’m so glad I trusted my gut instincts, because I love it and certainly don’t have any regrets. There’s such a great atmosphere in the shop and it’s somewhere I feel safe and comfortable.
“Everyone is so friendly and it feels like a family.”
Andrew, an avid collector with an eclectic mix of autographs and memorabilia, was right to trust his gut instincts. He started volunteering in September 2021 and now dedicates 16 to 20 hours a week, including every Monday and Friday morning and Wednesday afternoons.
Even on a non-work day, he often pops in for cuppa and he has also lent a hand in other EACH shops, including Holt, Cromer, North Walsham and Fakenham.
“I enjoy meeting people and love the challenge of raising as much as possible, especially if it’s a high-value item,” said Andrew, who was speaking during EACH’s ‘Be the difference’ campaign – a volunteer recruitment drive running until the end of October.
“I’ve had various health issues down the years, including being knocked off my motorbike after an accident in 2011. I had to be airlifted to hospital and spent the next eight months of my life there.
“Then, six years ago, I was diagnosed with throat cancer and that meant many more months in hospital. It’s been a long road back and I still have health complications now.
“However, I don’t let anything hold me back and try and carry on as best I can, because my volunteering is so important to me.”
Andrew is a passionate sports fan – a lifelong Chelsea supporter and a former long-time member of Middlesex County Cricket Club.
He has been to around 70 of the 92 Football League grounds and his vast autograph collection ranges from Michael Jackson and Sean Connery to Tiger Woods, Ant and Dec and the Beach Boys.
Sheringham shop manager Naomi said: “Andrew is such an important and valued member of our team. He’s priceless, incredibly dependable and considerate and shops like ours would struggle to function without people like him.”
For more information about volunteering for EACH, head to www.each.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering