Working in the hospice building it’s easy to think it’s all about care. Whether you’re in the Ulverston building or the Living Well Centre every day there are patients and families coming and going, receiving our support. The lovely Facebook comments focus on the quality of care, so do the comments over coffee at the Light up a Life service. Fundraisers almost always mention the quality and kindness of care. Wherever you are in South Lakes and Furness the hospice story is all about our wonderful care. And of course that’s right because that’s exactly what the hospice is here for.
But the hospice has other faces too. Because we have to find 82% of our funds ourselves we also inhabit a sometimes grimier world that lies far away from hospice beds, far away from patients.
This year I decided to do a Sunflower Day in retail and have managed three shops so far, though I’m not sure if they think of themselves as the lucky or unlucky three! Grange, Ulverston and Dalton have all been kind enough to have me in and show me the ropes.
And complicated ropes they are too. In each of those days I’ve tried my hand (with degrees of success) at all sorts of things; emptying binbags of clothes (not all fresh and clean); pricing items then printing tickets and hanging them; steaming clothes to make them look their best (and burnt my finger in the process); emptied stock from rails when it hasn’t sold and refilled racks with new clothes just come in. I’ve told people ‘that item really suits you’ and helped people looking for something very specific.
And what have I learned? Well I’ve learned it’s a lot of physical hard work for a start. No one sits down at all, ever, in the shops unless it’s that 60 seconds spent printing price tickets. Even the tea break is taken standing up. That makes it a hard day physically. It’s all lifting and bending and holding things up. In Barrow there’s the added joy of stairs, I know because I couldn’t move later that night! And you’re also doing all those physical tasks while also making sure the atmosphere in the shop is warm and friendly for every customer who comes in, regardless of what mood they bring with them.
The volunteers are a really mixed group with retired people, some are holding down college or school, some mums. Why do they do it? for many of them it’s because they believe in our care. But it takes more than that to get through a hard physical shift so the other things that keep them going are the great leadership by their managers who keep things focused and positive. There’s the great feeling of camaraderie between volunteers with everyone mucking in. but most of all it’s the fun, the laughs the enjoyment of coming together with others to do something worthwhile. Ring a bell anyone?
So to come back to the question. What did Retail ever do for us? On my reckoning the answer is ‘a hard physical job while keeping a happy atmosphere so they can raise funds to let the hospice care for patients and families’. It’s a good answer.
They’re my new unsung heroes and I hope yours too.