When customers come into our shops, volunteers like Helen Heath are often the first to greet them with a smile and offer them a helping hand.
Helen first started volunteering at St Margaret’s in 2019 after seeing an advert on Facebook for fundraising volunteers but just a few weeks later she decided to become a retail volunteer after being inspired by a conversation she had with the shop manager at our Chard Shop.
“St Margaret’s was a charity I had known about and thought well of. I’d always support the hospice if I could,” Helen said. “I’d got to a point in my life where I had a bit more time as I’d retired, so when the advert came up, I thought why not give it a go!
“Not long after I started volunteering on the fundraising side, I popped into the Chard shop and saw the shop manager, Tracey, and told her I had started volunteering for the hospice. I told her that I would have come to volunteer at the shop but I had elderly relatives who needed me so I knew I couldn’t commit and might be letting the team down last minute. But Tracey said that wasn’t a problem as the shops always have a paid member of staff on shift and the volunteers are just a bonus.”
“As soon as I came into the shop, I absolutely loved it,” Helen said. “When I started, I did a bit of everything - I worked on the till, sorted through donations, steamed clothes, and stocked the shelves, the training was fantastic. I had no prior retail experience before I started here, and I love it now.
“It honestly doesn’t feel like work coming here. I love working with the wonderful team at the Chard shop and the whole hospice are so welcoming. I now buy most of my clothes from the shop as they have an excellent selection of good quality pre-loved goods to choose from. There’s a great variety in our shops and our customers love it.”
Helen in her onesie at the Chard shop
When Helen joined St Margaret’s in 2019, she saw it as a way to support her local hospice and do something productive during her retirement. But in 2021, Helen’s sister-in-law was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and was cared for by St Margaret’s nurses in the hospice’s In-patient Unit in her final days.
“Julie went downhill very rapidly, and the hospice were fantastic. My brother and his two children could not have praised the hospice enough as they did everything, they could to support Julie. In Julie’s last few hours, she got to use the hospice’s cuddle bed, it’s the only one at the hospice so she was very lucky to get it. It made such a difference to Julie, and I want to raise some money to buy a cuddle bed so more patients can benefit.”
The cuddle bed allows patients and a loved one to spend quality time together and have a cuddle. At first glance, they look like any other single patient bed, but the design allows for them to be extended from the side to make more room. To help raise funds to buy the cuddle bed, Helen is wearing a onesie for the whole of January and February at the Chard shop and the team are fully behind her.
“I feel so proud to volunteer here,” Helen said. “Every time I come to the shop, I hope by getting pennies in the donation tins and money in the tills, we can help people like Julie who really need the support.
“I’ve seen first-hand just how the help St Margaret’s offers makes a difference. The time families have together is absolutely precious and St Margaret’s helps them to make the most of that time together. Volunteering at the shop makes me feel proud and good about myself as it feels great to give back to the hospice when they’ve done so much for my family.
“The shop team were so supportive when I lost my sister-in-law, and really helped me through what was a difficult time. We are a very social bunch. We go out for meals throughout the year and always celebrate people’s birthdays so if you are lonely and looking for something to do it’s a great way to meet people in your local area and make friends.
“You will be able to find something that you can turn your hand to, whether it’s sorting through donations or helping customers at the till. Anything you can give to the hospice is a positive, whether it’s a few hours once a week or a few days a month. It all makes a massive difference.”
*If you would like to find out more about volunteering opportunities or how you can support Helen in her fundraising journey, please visit or call the Chard shop.