Long-serving volunteer Les Strudwick was “flattered and honoured” after cutting the ribbon at a new charity shop in Downham Market.
The 91-year-old, who celebrates his next birthday on 13th December, was asked to officially open the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) store in Wales Court.
EACH had previously traded in the High Street but has now moved into bigger premises, previously occupied by the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.
Les cut the ribbon as he has been volunteering for the charity since the original shop opened in November 2008.
“I was very flattered and it was a real honour,” he said.
“Our new shop is very impressive and there’s so much space, compared to the old one. It’s going to be great volunteering here, raising money for a very special cause – one I feel very strongly about.
“My wife and I always loved children and we used to support children’s charities, among others. Volunteering here therefore feels right and natural and it’s something I believe in.”
Les’ wife, Joan, was very ill when he first started out in November 2008. Sadly, she died the following February. He was among the shop’s first cohort of volunteers and has been there ever since, with his favourite job being serving customers on the till.
“I remember walking through the town, popping into the shop and meeting the manager,” he said.
“At the time, my dear wife had dementia and was living in a nursing home. I knew what the future held and wanted the outlet and sociability of volunteering.
“I realised it would be healthy for me and that’s definitely been true. I like to think we’ve helped each other in the years since.
“It’s certainly a very positive part of my life and I’ve made great friends, from managers and sales assistants to fellow volunteers and customers.
“They’re friends of all ages and I’m still in close contact with people who no longer work in the shop, which is lovely.
“Everyone has the common goal of raising money and we’re all in it together. It’s a tight-knit group and I certainly hope to continue as long as possible, while my body allows.”
In addition to volunteering, Les, who keeps fit by using a rowing machine, treadmill and lifting weights, makes monthly donations and has organised collection buckets.
He also had a brainwave while celebrating his 80th and 90th birthdays.
Although he treated family and friends to lunch, everyone was encouraged to donate at least £15 to EACH and the idea raised £600 and £800 respectively.
To find out more about volunteering in Downham Market, pop into the shop, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01366 380619.
Picture: Lois Livoti/EACH