A former soldier says volunteering in a charity shop has given her a fresh lease of life and helped her battle through difficult times.
Patricia Critchlow enjoyed an illustrious career, signing up when she was 17 and serving as a British Army soldier for 12 years. She also enjoyed 15 years with the American military. She lived in Germany for 42 years but started helping in Lowestoft’s East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) shop after moving back to England in 2014. Eight and a half years later, she describes it as “one of the best things I ever did”.
Patricia lives with both Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). She also suffers from arthritis and had a stroke in 2011. It means her mobility is limited and her health nearly got the better of her last year.
“It left me feeling extremely depressed,” said the 73-year-old, who was speaking during the charity’s Be the Difference campaign – a fortnight-long drive to recruit more volunteers for its 46 shops. “I was at a real low and even considered taking my own life. However, the shop gave me an outlet and something positive to focus on, with the support of so many great people. Coming here to volunteer was one of the best things I ever did.
“I’d always enjoyed being a customer in the shop and half my wardrobe comes from EACH. When you buy something from one of our shops, you know it’s of high quality and that’s why I wanted to join the team. Since then I’ve made some very good friends and they’ve helped me so much. EACH does a fantastic job and I love my voluntary work, being part of such a lovely group of people. It’s just the job for me.”
Patricia, who has travelled extensively and completed missionary work overseas, serves customers every Wednesday. “Operating the till is about the only thing I can do, because it’s not easy for me to move around the shop,” said the mum of two, who also has two grandchildren and a great grandchild. “Even then, I struggle at times because I can’t do as much with my hands as I used to, but I’m an old soldier, so battle on! “Serving customers is what I love most, because I enjoy having the opportunity to chat to them and take a real interest in their lives.”
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 Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex and a busy Retail Distribution Centre, in Thetford.
For more information, speak to a member of staff in-store or contact volunteer services on 01223 205183. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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).