25 years volunteering at “The Magic Shop”

December 7th, 2018 Posted in Volunteer Stories

What motivates someone to volunteer in the same shop for 25 years? Sally Isted, who has volunteered at the Rowans shop in Fratton for a quarter of a century, shares her story.

“In October of this year I will have worked as a volunteer at the Rowans’ Hospice shops in Fratton for 25 years.

I first became acquainted with the Rowans when I attended a concert given by the Phoenix Players in aid of the charity. This was prior to the Hospice actually being built. Louisa Taylor gave a speech at the end of the show saying they were determined to build a Hospice and the land, opposite Pubrook Heath, had already been acquired. She said they were looking for volunteers for their shop in Fratton. The shop at the time was very small and fronted a little office. I did not work there but when they opened a larger shop opposite, I joined the team there.

We did not have a manager in the shop in those days and it was left to the volunteers to run the outlet and to assist Mike with the banking. Mike was the Area Manager who checked on us from time to time.

“I call it the Magic Shop. I have seen alcoholics being given the chance to volunteer and it has changed their lives.”

Unfortunately there was a lot wrong with the shop structurally and the roof leaked. That’s when we moved to our present location. It used to be a Co-op hairdresser. The shop was in need of decorating and I gave up a couple of Sundays to help Mike paint the walls. Catherine, my granddaughter, loved to help in the shop and to work the till: she was 14 at the time. We did not have a steamer for the clothes, only an iron, which was hard work.

The Fratton shop has always been a very close knit community with everyone co-operating well. I call it the Magic Shop. I have seen alcoholics being given the chance to volunteer and it has changed their lives. People who were initially terribly shy and who would hide themselves away whilst doing their jobs have become very outgoing. We have had volunteers as well as customers who have had cancer and we have been there for them. We have also had people who have suffered a bereavement and they have brought in some of their loved ones clothes and possessions. When they have wanted to talk, we have always tried to offer some words of comfort.

“The shop may have changed, but people don’t”

In my 25 years I have met some interesting people that have included volunteers like Joan who had been a reporter for the Daily Mirror. She loved telling us stories of famous people she had met. She was a lovely lady and a real character but, sadly, she has died. There was also a young boy of four who would come in the shop and read all the posters on the wall. This was before he had actually started school. He went on to go to Oxford University. His parents love to tell us about his life and what he is doing now.

Years ago before the internet took over our lives, we would get transsexuals coming in the shop to buy their clothes and shoes. I became very friendly with one who invited me to her Christening at St Marys Hospital Chapel. She had decided to be christened a woman.

The shop may have changed but people don’t. I have enjoyed working as a volunteer and hope to continue for a few more years yet. I would certainly recommend to anyone thinking about it to give it a try.”

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