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Searching For The Nation's Longest Charity Shop Volunteer
Inside a charity shop - photo Les Chatfield
The Charity Retail Association has launched a national award to find Britain's longest serving charity shop volunteer.

Charity shops are a Great British institution that attract volunteers from all walks of life; and this award aims to highlight the extraordinary time and effort that people give to charity. The winner will be announced during National Volunteering week in June.

The Charity Retail Association is asking charity retailers to nominate volunteers who have served for a long time with great distinction and tell us about their achievements, their highlights over the years and what keeps them coming back for more.

Recent research by the think tank Demos showed that over 80 percent of volunteers said that volunteering improved their self-esteem and confidence, and 61 per cent agreed explicitly recognised a link between volunteering and their mental or physical health.

Lots of books to choose from - photo Kirrus
These unheralded volunteers raise close to £300m a year for charity. Some of our candidates include Sandra who has spent the last 45 years at her shop and survived an IRA bomb attack, to the twin sisters who have worked side by side for the past 28 years, and Matthew & Remesh who helped get their lives back on track after volunteering in a charity shop.

Sandra Turner, 75. Volunteering for 45 years in Oxfam NI, Portadown.
Helped establish the first Oxfam shop in Northern Ireland, transforming an old pub where to find a bargain you had to rummage through brown boxes where they used to keep the spirits in to a profitable and attractive store that it is today.
An amazing 2348 weeks spent volunteering over the course of her lifetime
One of the original volunteers, she still volunteers for a day a week. The last serving one of the original cohort.
There was an IRA bomb attack in the street, near the shop. Sandra had to crouch down, evacuate other volunteers and run down the street to escape it, ducking behind the bins as she went! That did not stop her she helped rebuild the store.
When Sandra started volunteering in 1969 Neil Armstrong had not even take his first steps on the moon yet and Concord was taken its maiden flight. Over those 45 years she has raised a family and grandkids has not slowed her down one bit, she even has tried to recruit her youngest grandkids as helpers in the shop.

Twin Sisters have volunteered for 28 years each to play their part in raising £4 Million over the years for British Heart Foundation (BHF).
Iris Smith and Edna Haas started volunteering in May 1986 on the opening day and are still at the shop today!
The twins are an inseparable force of nature help raise £1.5 million in profit for British Heart Foundation.
Jean represented shop volunteers at the BHF 50th Anniversary at 10 Downing Street.

Clothes for sorting - photo net_efekt
These dedicated members of the shop team are joined by Jean Hopkins who has been with them since the opening day too! All three of them are still volunteering three days a week, outside of the shop they spend their time supporting Gillingham Football Club and playing golf.

West Ealing YMCA Shop, four volunteers with over 80 years of service between them.
4 of the 5 longest serving volunteers for the YMCA volunteer in this one shop.
Matthew Harvey started volunteering 26 years ago and has volunteered every day since.
Started in 1988, after walking down Bond Street and seeing the shop needed volunteers.
He puts down his longevity to his passion for helping people and the charity shop setting is such a great way to do it.
The hardest changes he has had to deal with is "not been able to play his vinyl records in store anymore as everything is all now digital, this has helped him adjust to using a new electronic till though"

The story of Remesh Khanna, 62 shows how charity shops not only raise money, boost local business but offer a support network and a positive health benefit to those who volunteer.
He started out as a volunteer for a couple of months in 1995 to help him recover from his depression but finds himself still playing an active part to this day.
"Volunteering has really kept me going, I can't put into words the positive feeling, support and help I get as a volunteer here and it's wonderful to keep doing it after so long."

For more information please contact Liam Challenger on 020 7697 4079/07826 807095 or email liam@charityretail.org.uk

Searching For The Nation's Longest Charity Shop Volunteer, 3rd May 2014, 15:02 PM