Norwich’s Lady Mayoress says clothes bought from a charity shop have helped her look the part during an “extraordinary” year.
Julie Keane, who volunteers at the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) store in Unthank Road, has been in the prestigious role since May 2021. Her partner, Cllr Dr Kevin Maguire, is Lord Mayor of Norwich but his term ends on 23rd May. Normally the position only lasts for a year but it was extended to two because of Covid. Julie says it has been a whirlwind year but she has enjoyed carrying out her duties while also helping in the shop every Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m a retired nursery teacher and started volunteering when the shop reopened after the first lockdown,” said Julie, who was speaking during EACH’s Be the Difference campaign – a fortnight-long drive to recruit more volunteers for its 46 shops. “I was concerned that so many charities had reduced funding during the pandemic and wanted to help. The shop itself is lovely, with all the outfits arranged by colour. The staff are very creative in their presentation and I always notice the window displays and the way the store is changed to keep it fresh.
“I’ve found working at EACH really useful for getting appropriate clothes for my role as Lady Mayoress. It’s been a real boon and if ever I’m complimented on what I’m wearing, I always tell people where I got it from.”
The Lord Mayor is the first citizen of Norwich and represents the people of the city, alongside the Lady Mayoress. Julie and Dr Maguire recently enjoyed one last big date, having been invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party on 9th May.
“The first year was quite subdued, but this year has been extraordinary,” said the 67-year-old, who wore a fascinator bought at Unthank Road. “We celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee with various activities, including lighting a beacon. The Lord Mayor’s Procession in July had the Jubilee as its theme, so we wore crowns. Then, very sadly, we had the death of the Queen and the Lord Mayor read the Proclamation of the new monarch from the steps of City Hall. For the Coronation, we attended a service at the Anglican Cathedral and another at St Peter Mancroft.
“We often go to church services and I was honoured to read a lesson in the Cathedral at the EACH Christmas Carol service. Unfortunately, it all ends for us when a new Lord Mayor takes over on 23rd May. However, I’ve already suggested to his wife that, if she needs them, she’ll find some lovely clothes at Unthank Road!”.
Julie feels a strong connection to EACH and partly due to personal circumstances, because son Iain died in a canoeing accident when he was at university in Wales, in 2000. He was 19 and just days away from coming home to Norwich for Christmas.
“It’s often hard for parents to talk about children they’ve lost – not because of our pain, but because of the reaction of the listener,” said Julie. “Other people imagine the loss of their own child and are so upset they shut the conversation down very quickly. I haven’t visited The Nook yet, but I imagine that’s one of the strengths of the hospice – that there are people who’ll always understand.
“To be truthful, it hadn’t occurred to me until recently that my loss had anything to do with my support for EACH. It was a sort of ‘ah ha!’ moment, but then it seemed obvious. Thinking things through gave me insight into why I might have chosen to work for EACH.”
Julie says volunteering suits her personality and would recommend it to anyone. “I’m a very chatty person so often work on the till,” she said. “I love talking to customers, but, having lost a family member recently, I’m also aware that sometimes people are bringing in items they’re clearing from the house of someone who’s died. We handle those donations with particular care.
“I was talking to one man about a table centre piece he’d brought in after clearing his parents’ house. He said it was always used for parties, but he wasn’t sure if anyone would want it. I told him it would be popular and that we’d certainly be able to sell it. He went away happy, but, just as we were closing, he knocked on the door and asked if he could have it back. Talking about how his parents had used it had brought back memories and he realised he wasn’t ready to let it go.”
Julie, who has two surviving children, also loves working for a children’s hospice because of her career working with youngsters. “I retain my interest and love to see them playing in the children’s area,” she said. “I particularly like telling families about the free children’s books we give out in the school holidays. It’s fantastic but while I find my volunteering both fun and engaging, I never lose sight of the reason we do it.”
EACH relies on voluntary donations for the majority of its income. This year alone it needs to raise £6.5 million from its Retail operation, which includes stores across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex and a busy Retail Distribution Centre, in Thetford.
For more information about volunteering, speak to a member of staff in-store or contact volunteer services on 01223 205183. Alternatively, email email@example.com
Notes to Editors
“We’d heard about EACH and knew they were a fantastic cause that had supported families we knew, but we never thought we’d be the ones that needed them! Sadly, as fantastic as it is, their service will always be required, and every child who needs their help deserves to have it.”
- We care for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, and support their families.
- We offer families flexibility and control over where they receive their care and support, including where their child dies – at home, in hospital or at one of three hospices at Milton (Cambridge), The Nook (Norfolk) and The Treehouse (Ipswich).