Thirty years behind the hospice shop till

December 05 2016

A KINDHEARTED woman is celebrating 30 years of volunteering for Bristol's much-loved charity St Peter’s Hospice.

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A KINDHEARTED woman is celebrating 30 years of volunteering for Bristol's much-loved charity St Peter’s Hospice. 

The charity, which has branches in Fishponds, Lodge Causeway and Staple Hill, has honoured Sheila Williamson for her years of dedicated service and hope her story will encourage more people to help out at the city's numerous shops.

Sheila, 73, began volunteering at the hospice shop in Regent Street, Kingswood on the very first day it opened after learning about it from friends who supported the hospice. She was in her 40s then and has now clocked up a whopping three decades of volunteering service for the charity. 

Now helping the team at the Kings Chase branch, Sheila says the role has changed her life, giving her more confidence and a way to meet new friends.

“I absolutely love volunteering for St Peter’s Hospice, it’s been brilliant for me. It gets me out, it’s given me confidence and I’ve learnt how to work in a shop, which I’d never done before. There was a time when I wouldn’t say boo to a goose but now I make a point of  having a little bit of conversation with everyone I serve. I’ve made great friends with colleagues and regular customers.

“When I had a hip operation I made it in on crutches and when there was a fire in the shop a few years ago I signed up to volunteer in another shop until it was reopened because I didn’t want to miss out! It’s my favourite day of the week,” said Sheila.

And it seems Sheila has passed her love of volunteering on to her family. At one time Sheila, her mother and her daughter all worked in the Kingswood shop together on a Friday.

She said: “That was a lovely time, my granddaughter had just started school so my daughter had more time on her hands and my mother needed to get out the house. She volunteered for 20 years and is in her late 80s now so it obviously did her good!

“Of course the shops have changed a lot since the early days. We used to have two people to a till and one would take the money and one would write it in the book. What a difference to the tills now, but we didn’t know any different.”

Sheila is one of 151 volunteers who was honoured at the annual St Peter’s Hospice Long Service Awards in November. The volunteers, who have given 5,10,15,20,25 and 30 years of service have collectively clocked up 1500 years between them. 

If the excitement of the ceremony wasn’t enough, this year the awards were handed out by actress Sunetra Sarker from Casualty, Sheila’s favourite programme. 

Sheila added: “I was so excited to hear that Sunetra would be there;  I watch Casualty every week without fail! 

“It’s lovely to be recognised for our contribution. I always encourage others to take up volunteering, if anyone is lonely or looking for a new hobby, do some charity work, it will do the world of good.

“We are short staffed at the Kingswood shop at the moment so we’d love to see some new faces volunteering.”

As Bristol’s only adult hospice, St Peter’s Hospice cares for more than 2,670 patients each year as well as supporting family members. 

All services are provided free of charge for patients and their families and this care costs around £19,000 a day. In order to continue providing vital care for the people of Bristol, St Peter’s Hospice relies on donations from fundraising and money generated by the 50 hospice charity shops in Bristol and surrounding districts.

Over 1500 volunteers are signed up to help St Peter’s Hospice but more are always needed. 

You can contact Russell directly to find out about volunteering roles across the organisation on 0117 915 9448 or email russell.cowan@stpetershospice.org.