Many of our shop volunteers have seen firsthand the care St Clare provides to patients. Volunteering in our shops can become an extension of the care we provide to families after they lose a loved one. Christine told us how volunteering in our boutique in Buckhurst Hill, Scarlet, has helped her.
“My husband Henry and I were together for more than 40 years. We met in a pub one day and just started chatting – then I ended up working with him in his family’s butchers shop in Hackney. We courted for 2 years and then got married in 1981. We had just decided to sell the shop and retire to Chigwell when Henry was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer at Christmas 2012. I felt he had been cheated because he never got the chance to enjoy his retirement.
We first heard about St Clare when our GP put us in touch with one of the Clinical Nurse Specialists, Michelle Pipe, who came to see us at home. Henry started attending a Day Therapy group on a Friday at the hospice – and he used to love all the banter. Henry was a real man’s man and he missed having a laugh with the customers in his shop. The Friday group was a great thing for him because it gave him a chance to meet other men and have a break from being at home.
When Henry passed away in August 2014 I went into shock. For 2 years I took him to every medical appointment, radiotherapy session, scan or blood test. When you lose a loved one, you suddenly feel like you’ve got nothing to do. I went really in to myself and was so quiet I wouldn’t say boo to a goose.
It was one day in November 2014 when I was having coffee with my granddaughter on Queen’s Road in Buckhurst Hill that I first spoke about volunteering in the St Clare shop. My granddaughter said it was a great idea and made me go in and speak to the shop manager, Jan, straight away. Jan was so kind when I asked her if she needed any more volunteers, and she asked if I would like to pop in for a couple of hours and see if it suited me. After just one morning in the shop I knew I liked it and started volunteering on a Wednesday morning.
I have been volunteering for 2 years now and can honestly say it has saved my life. When I started I was so quiet and reserved, but slowly the team at Scarlet has helped me become myself again. We are such a close knit team in the shop – we are like a family. A number of us have lost our husbands and so we all understand each other and can support each other because we know what each other has gone through.
Volunteering has made me feel better in myself, and stronger. The shop has been wonderful, it gets me out the house and now I have my regular customers who come in to see me – and we banter like Henry and I used to in our shop. A group of the Scarlet volunteers have been on lots of trips together – we have been to Bruges, Venice and Croatia! I would never have done those things or met all these lovely people if it wasn’t for the St Clare shop. It saved my life.”