Creative Mary Hyder is proving a real-life ‘material girl’ and helping raise vital funds for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.
The 69-year-old, who volunteers in the charity’s Swaffham shop, has teamed up with a local upholstery business to source high-quality fabric for EACH customers.
The move is already paying handsome dividends and hopes are high it could prove a money-spinner for the Market Place store.
Mary said: “It all started when I popped into Narborough Upholstery and got talking to (owner) Simon Emery, telling him about my role with EACH.
“When he told me I’d be welcome to look in the remnants box, I assumed it would be full of odds and ends and bits and pieces.
“What I found was far more than that, though. There were yards of high-quality fabric and more than enough to cover things like chairs and stools.
“Simon, very kindly, said we were welcome to sell it and raise funds for EACH.
“He said that otherwise it would only go in a dustbin and end up in a landfill.
“Hopefully, this material could generate a lot of money and when people know they can buy it in our shop, it might encourage them to pick up something else.
“As someone who does a lot of craftwork, I’m confident people will buy bags of this fabric. Any like-minded person will love it and I know people don’t always want to buy enormous amounts, so this could be ideal.”
Mary volunteers in the shop every Monday morning and spends much of her week making things like bunting. She is currently designing poppies – having made more than 200 so far – to be part of a Remembrance Day parade.
“My mind is always whirring and I like thinking outside the box,” said the 69-year-old, who started volunteering soon after retiring in March and recently spoke about her experiences in an interview with the local Newspaper for the Blind.
“If I say I’m going to do something, I like to do it properly and that’s why I’m so pleased to have struck up this relationship with Simon.
“I applied for the role soon after retiring because I wanted something to focus on. I made it clear in my application that I’d be particularly keen to be involved in dressing the shop window.
“I love coming up with themed displays every week and putting my creative skills to good use, trying to come up with enticing displays.
“It’s so gratifying to hear customers’ comments and making things to display, like bunting, gives me a real purpose. It’s a labour of love and an outlet for my creativity.
“Craftwork is my hobby anyway and I spend a lot of time sewing.
“Ironically, when I was 16 and about to leave school, I was offered an apprenticeship to become a trainee window dresser for a shop in London.
“However, the pay was poor and I would have had to rely on support from my parents, so had to turn it down. Who would have known that I’d have this wonderful opportunity all these years later?
“I’m enjoying every minute of my time with EACH.
“It’s a busy shop that sells some exceptionally high-quality items.
“Customers really appreciate it and the people who work and volunteer there are lovely.
“From a personal point of view, I just love mixing and connecting with these people. The whole experience has been great.”
The Swaffham shop is open from 9am until 5pm Monday to Saturday.
Shop Manager Bell Brown said she is always keen to hear from more people who might be willing to volunteer, like Mary.
She said: “Mary is a very valued member of our team and volunteers like her are worth their weight in gold.
“The fabric she is sourcing really is beautiful and it’s paying off already, in terms of raising money for EACH.
“We can never have enough help here in the shop and we’d love to hear from anyone interested in joining us.”