Anni Bowden has volunteered in Blythe House Hospicecare shops since 2005, starting at the Chapel-en-le-Frith store on High Street, and now as one of the ‘Friday girls’ at Whaley Bridge’s Market Street department shop.
The Disley resident says: ‘I got involved with volunteering all those years ago alongside my two very good friends Sue Cooper and Jane Henry. We have all been affected by cancer, either through family or dear friends. Very sadly, Jane died in 2012; my brother also died from the dreadful disease, as well as other close friends. We wanted to show our support for Blythe House, and to demonstrate the love we have for our lost ones.
‘I saw Jane benefit from the services that Blythe House provides. Jane never attended the hospice directly, but the consultant doctor who was based there would go out to visit Jane in her home; she was also able to contact the hospice when she needed help or advice. This invaluable service enabled Jane to stay and die at home, just as she wished to.
‘My dear friend Sue and I look forward to our Friday mornings of volunteering. We have regular customers who pop in each week to see us and have a chat. We not only enjoy helping folk to buy different items, but we are also able to show our donators a good deal of gratitude for their generosity, which we find always encourages them to donate again. I feel that this shop acts as a charity twice-over – not only is it raising vital funds for the hospice, but it’s also supporting the local community.
‘We volunteers are drawn from a wide circle and so we all bring different talents and attributes to our sessions. Sue being a language teacher is able to ensure that our German, French and Welsh visitors are very welcome – our shop is a destination for many! I, being a retired occupational therapist, can offer support and often a bit of counselling to customers who are perhaps feeling a bit sad, poorly or lonely. We find that people confide in us because of the ethos of the hospice, and because of our life experiences and professions, we’re able to offer a little bit of support in their times of need. As well as customers, we volunteers also help and care for each other. A lot of volunteers use their time here as a haven; it provides such a special place for people to chat and offer support, in a non-judgmental way.
‘I mostly volunteer because I have such a satisfying morning knowing I am helping a great cause, but also because we have a good laugh together!’