Two charity shop helpers have spoken of the firm friendship they have developed since taking very different pathways into volunteering. Mel Wells and Avrille Robertshaw spare their time to support the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) store in Clacton.
Mel joined a year ago, having previously worked as a nurse for two decades before taking medical retirement because of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Volunteering for a children’s charity is close to her heart as she cared for her daughter, Emily, who had CHARGE syndrome and died a week after her 18th birthday in February 2010.
“I know how it feels having a child with a life-threatening health condition,” said the 55-year-old, who lives in Brightlingsea. It can be horrifying and traumatic, which is why I feel such a connection with EACH.
“I didn’t have the support of a hospice when my daughter was young or after she died, so want to do something positive to help others. Hopefully it makes a difference.
“Everyone knew and loved Emily. The doctors didn’t think she’d make it to her first birthday so she defied the odds to live as long as she did. Because of my skills and background, I was able to care for her but it was incredibly hard because I was also her mum.”
Since joining, she has forged a strong friendship with the team and especially Avrille, who hails from West Yorkshire.
“I started volunteering once a week, then two days and now three,” said Mel, who is about to begin a degree in health, wellbeing and social care and has two other daughters, Chloe and Lillie.
“I don’t know what I’d do without the people here. I’ve had another tough year but been overwhelmed by the support, kindness and friendship of people like Avrille and our shop manager, Brigitte (Youngs).”
Avrille started volunteering two years ago as part of her community service programme, while on probation. Initially, she started volunteering every Friday and has since added Wednesdays.
“I had to volunteer as part of my community service programme but could have walked away after a year,” said the 60-year-old, from Weeley.
“I didn’t have to do it anymore but loved it so much that I wanted to carry on. It’s all about the people for me.
“Everyone here is like a family and we’ve become good friends. Whenever anyone is going through a tough time, we rally round to get that person back on their feet and we’d all do anything for Brigitte.
“She’s so lovely, kind and makes us laugh. She’s such a good, fair and empathetic manager and so well organised.”
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
To find your nearest EACH shop, head here.