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St Catherine’s holds a big place in my heart

Rita Reissland is a volunteer in our Caterham Shop. She gives an update on what it’s like volunteering and why she donates her time to support our hospice.

“St Catherine’s holds a big place in my heart

The hospice cared for my husband, Ken, since he was referred in 2014 and I just felt volunteering was something I could do to give back.

I started volunteering at St Catherine’s in 2016 shortly after Ken died. I’d been left with an enormous gap in my everyday life and I was wondering what I could do to keep myself busy and occupied. My husband and I first met through volunteering actually, we met through the parent’s association at children’s schools. We always did things together to help out in the local community, like joining the local Lions Club together 15 years ago, so it’s always been part of our nature. I’m now retired so volunteering seemed like the perfect thing to do.

Volunteering is just part of what I do

I volunteer in the Caterham shop on Mondays and Wednesdays. It’s great because it can be flexible around any other responsibilities you have. The Caterham shop is great, it’s very much a part of the community. We get regular customers who always pop in to browse our latest bargains and stop by for a catch up, and before COVID we could stand anywhere in the shop for a chat with customers.

Some of our customers have been through a very similar experience to myself, so they have a strong loyalty to St Catherine’s. Some people have a strong loyalty to the hospice movement whilst others are lonely and come to see us for chat and to see a friendly face.

We get some very generous donations brought to us by our supporters which we’re incredibly grateful for. I love seeing all of the donations that come to us, but in some bags you see someone’s whole life in plastic sacks which can be heart wrenching. I’ve been there myself and had to do exactly the same thing for my husband, so I can really resonate with our customers in every way.

Due to COVID my volunteering stopped after Christmas

I really missed the social aspect of my volunteering. For me, it’s something to get out of bed for in the morning and it’s a purpose to the day. Before COVID I had a regular routine. I’d go down to the shop on the bus, I’d have a chat with someone on the bus, do my shift, time it with the bus coming back and that routine added a lovely structure . Once COVID hit I didn’t want to use public transport, so I drove instead, which made the whole experience really different. It cut out those conversations I’d have with people that uplifted me throughout the day.

One of the things I really missed doing was steaming all of the clothes in the shop. I find it very therapeutic and satisfying. It gives me a lot of satisfaction seeing something turn into a completely different looking item of clothing because of the steaming. It’s a very pleasant and calming way to spend three hours.

 Volunteering means I’m occupying my day with something I love, doing something worthwhile for my local community and giving back to the hospice

I resumed my volunteering at the Caterham shop on Monday 12 April and it was great to be back

We had a brilliant first week and it was so nice to see our customers shopping with us again. Feedback from customers has been really positive and really motivating for us, they’re all so delighted that we’ve opened our doors again

There has been a huge amount of donations come in, some quite poignant through bereavement during lockdown. We’re really grateful that everyone has been respecting the COVID restrictions with masks, social distancing and using our hand sanitiser, and we would like to thank everyone who has visited us so far.

I’d encourage everyone who is able to, to give volunteering a go

You won’t know if you like it until you’ve tried it out for yourself! When my husband and I were a couple, we really complimented each other with our different personalities. He was the one who was really sociable and I was the one who just listened to his silly jokes. When he died I thought if I don’t do something I’m just going to wither away, so I knew that I had to put myself out there and force myself into it.

Volunteering’s really brought me out of my shell. I’ll chat to anyone now and I love meeting new people every day, I’ve made lots of new friends from volunteering and I really missed it when the shops were closed.

I’ve worked with a couple of shop managers in the St Catherine’s shops and they’ve all been absolutely amazing

Emma, the Caterham shop manager is such a lovely woman and is so dedicated to the hospice. It’s really great to be around people who have the same love for the hospice as you do. It’s a very pleasant atmosphere and I love being there.

If you’re considering volunteering, just get out there and do it! It will bring you great satisfaction and pride to give your time to a local hospice that needs all the help it can get. You’ll also be supporting St Catherine’s to carry on their amazing work for terminally ill people and their families at such an important time in their lives

I can’t thank St Catherine’s enough for all that they have done for me and my family and it feels great to be back in my volunteering role now.”

If you’d like to more details about volunteering for your local hospice please click here

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