Sunday, 31 May 2020
DUKE Street in Henley has all but one of the town’s seven charity shops.
But despite the competition from their neighbours, all six stores earn tens of thousands of pounds a year for their individual causes.
They all receive regular custom, donations and offers of work from volunteers.
Some people have been giving their time for more than 30 years and others say it is the highlight of their week to spend time helping.
The shops are as follows:
OXFAM: There has been an Oxfam shop in Henley since the Seventies when there was one in Station Road. The shop later moved to Market Place.
Following a surge in demand, the charity decided to have two outlets in 1998 and opened the book shop next door. This shop moved to Duke Street in 2010.
There are now 75 volunteers who ensure the smooth running of the two sites.
The Market Place store sells about 40,000 items a year, including new and second-hand goods, such as clothes, toys and homeware.
It is currently being temporarily managed by Sabine Adams, who is the manager of the book shop.
Mrs Adams, who lives in Christmas Common with her husband Nigel, moved to England from her native Germany 35 years ago.
She has been involved with the charity since she started as a volunteer in 2007.
Mrs Adams said: “I had always wanted to work for Oxfam. I really admire the work they do. And I absolutely love books, so to be able to combine the two was just the perfect job for me.”
Over the years, the book shop has sold some valuable items.
Mrs Adams said: “We were donated a brand new set of bread baking books, which was purchased by the wife of a well-known chef. We have a lot of famous faces and celebrities in this area.”
Like most charities, Oxfam has evolved to cater for the modern world and utilises online auctions to get the best price for the items. A vinyl copy of the Beatles’ single Please Please Me was sold on eBay to an American bidder for £1,400 and a complete set of Game of Thrones books made £500, also online.
A book called Manet and the French Impressionists sold for £1,000.
The charity sends unsold clothes to a “wastesaver” service in Yorkshire, from where they go to be sold at other Oxfam shops or are given out at festivals.
Mrs Adams said: “We have lots of regular customers. Because of the environmental issues we are facing, people have started to realise it is important to shop for recycled clothes.
“The clothing industry creates a lot of waste and things are just thrown away. I think the whole second-hand trade is on the up. It is seen as a positive thing now.”
Oxfam has partnered with the Glastonbury, Latitude and Reading festivals to offer a recycled clothes scheme. It receives money from the organisers as well as being able to spread its message and recruit more volunteers.
Last year, supporters of Oxfam nationally helped raise £12.8 million to help fight poverty.
Some of the charity’s most urgent projects involve working with families who are affected by conflict or natural disasters.
Mrs Adams said: “We know there is always a real urgency to what we do. The money we raise through our 600 Oxfam shops is unrestricted, so we can use it in whatever way it is needed the most.
“I love my job and feel I am doing something very worthwhile. I enjoy working with a team of people who are just as passionate as I am and we are all working towards the same cause.
“I also feel there is an important social service to charity shops because people like to come here to chat.
“We offer a service to the community and we are able to provide jobs to people who would not be able to get any experience.” Oxfam volunteer Michael Trendall has lived in Henley all his life and has been helping the charity for 16 years. He volunteers two mornings a week.
Mr Trendall said: “I was looking for a part-time job when I retired. I worked in insurance for 18 years and I have always enjoyed books. I feel like I am able to make a difference.
“There are lots of nice people to talk to and we have some really nice customers.
“There is a real community spirit in Henley and we don’t always appreciate it. I can remember when a lady came in and bought a Clint Eastwood DVD and took it home before realising she didn’t even have a DVD player.”
Retired doctor Godfrey Morgenstern has been volunteering with Oxfam for nine years and works one morning a week.
He retired in 2008 after working in the haematology department at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.
Dr Morgenstern, who lives with his wife Margaret in Church Street, Henley, said: “Even before I came to be a volunteer for Oxfam I was aware of its background and I was always interested in books.
“I find it really enjoyable to be able to find a book that someone has been trying to get their hands on for a long time. Even if they are not very valuable it is nice to be able to help people who are looking for a specific book.
“I once found a first edition of a Laurie Lee book and it had a very low price on it. We ended up selling it for more than £100.
“Nearly everything we sell has been donated, so without the donors we couldn’t do anything. This is a relatively affluent area and there are a lot of people who want to donate. Oxfam does a fantastic job.”
THAMES HOSPICE: While the charity has been operating since 1987, the Henley shop only opened just over two years ago.
The charity is raising money for a new £22 million hospice in Maidenhead with more rooms than the current facility in Windsor as it can’t keep up with demand.
It now needs only the final £3 million but this is on top of the £7 million a year the charity needs to keep running, 80 per cent of which comes from donations.
The shop has been managed since it opened by Shiri McAndrew, 47, of St Mark’s Road, Henley.
Miss McAndrew said: “I know the street and the customers well. Henley is such a friendly and generous town. People are happy to give their time and support a good cause.”
She previously spent five years working at the Cancer Research shop.
Miss McAndrew said: “My aunt, Patricia Dexter, died after doctors discovered she had a brain tumour.
“I was made redundant from a job in Marlow and I started volunteering at Cancer Research in Marlow. After being there for a few months, I went for the assistant manager position in Henley.
“I found out I had got that job the same day as my aunt was diagnosed. It gave me the encouragement that by helping the charity I was helping her at the same time.”
The Thames Hospice shop stocks a wide range of items, including clothes, handbags, jewellery, books and toys. It also has an evening wear section every November. Unlike its competitors, it also stocks furniture but Miss McAndrew says there is more to its success than that.
“It is our attention to detail and the quality of the products that make the difference,” she said.
“We cater for a high-end customer and people that would not normally go into charity shops. You can get high street items at a great price.”
Donations of valuable clothes with labels such as Karen Millen and Burberry are frequent.
Miss McAndrew said: “We get Burberry jackets quite often and we put them in the window and they often sell on the same day.
“The more items like that we can show off, the more people will want to come in and browse.”
The shop has 11 volunteers, including Sam Cooper, 31, of King’s Road, Henley.
He has worked there for 18 months having previously been at both the Helen & Douglas House and Oxfam shops.
Mr Cooper said: “It makes a job so much more pleasurable knowing you are helping a good cause.
“I enjoy it so much and it is made easier by working with nice people. There is lots of money in Henley, so I suppose that helps us with donations and people wanting to come in and buy items.
“It is also a kind place and people want to be able to do a good thing.”
Genny Teague, 34, from Didcot, started volunteering in charity shops in her early twenties and has been assistant manager of the Thames Hospice shop for 18 months. Before that she was at the Cancer Research shop.
She said: “I started doing it to get out of the house. I was unemployed at the time and I was trying to keep busy.
“I wanted to work around people. I was so shy but now I am surrounded by lots of people and I love it. It is just such a lovely and nurturing atmosphere.
“I think the competition is a good thing. People come to the town specifically to visit the charity shops and we get a lot of regular customers. They know the value of items and they are willing to pay more for high-quality goods because they know they are still a good price.”
HELEN & DOUGLAS HOUSE: This charity established the world’s first children’s hospice.
Helen House, based in East Oxfordshire, was started by Sister Frances Dominica.
The inspiration was a little girl, called Helen, who was left with severe and irreversible brain damage after an emergency operation to remove a brain tumour. A friendship developed between Sister Frances and the family and she cared for Helen to give the parents a break.
Douglas House, which was opened by the Queen in 2004, closed in June 2018 due to a shortfall in funding but Helen House remains open to care for terminally-ill babies, children and young people up to the age of 18.
The charity needs to raise
£3million a year to keep going.
Its first shop opened in 2003 and the Henley branch was launched 11 years ago, when only Oxfam and Cancer Research had shops in the town.
The shop has been managed for the last year by Susanna Beynon and has a team of 15 volunteers and two full-time staff.
Volunteer Angela Weave, 70, who lives in Henley, has been at the shop since it opened.
Her daughter Helen died when she was 40 from a rare form of cancer of the appendix.
Mrs Weave, who has three other children, said: “I was particularly interested in volunteering because my daughter needed respite care and I felt this was a way I could give something back.
“Helen had severe learning difficulties and I know the benefit of having respite care. She got cancer but it was diagnosed rather late and we couldn’t do anything about it. By the time she died she was in full-time care but I looked after her before that.
“For me, this was about helping other children, having seen what my daughter had been through.
“I enjoy chatting with the customers. This job presents a great social opportunity and you are also doing something for a good cause. It is a very good charity and needs lots of volunteers to keep it going. The children at the hospice are treated so well and it is as important for the families as it is for the children.”
She says it’s not just locals who visit the shop but visitors too.
Mrs Weave added: “Susanna has a lot of enthusiasm and you need that at the top. She is clearly not just here for the money because you can see how much she cares about the charity and the shop.”
Ms Beynon, from Wokingham, previously managed the charity’s Bicester shop. She used to live in South Wales with her husband, George, who died from liver cancer 10 years ago.
She said: “My husband was cared for in Penarth. I used to do fundraising for them.
“There was also a hospice in South Wales that was specifically for children. When my husband was alive, we used to run social events for the siblings of the terminally ill children because they are often forgotten about.
“When I realised Helen House was the first children’s hospice in the world, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with.
“I feel so privileged that I have a job like this. I never have any problem getting out of bed in the morning because I know whatever effort my wonderful team and I put in it is making a big difference and every person that comes in with a donation makes a difference.
“I have found myself working six days a week and when you work harder at 63 than you do when you were 23, it is not what I expected. But I just love my job and feel so lucky.”
In the past year or so, the shop has received several unexpected donations, including an unopened box of Havana cigars and a new PlayStation.
The cigars went into a specialist auction and made £340 while the PlayStation was sold by the shop for £400.
Ms Beynon said: “We are always being given designer clothing and I never say no to anything. I hate saying no to people when they bring items in because it might be something fabulous.”
Jeweller David Rodger Sharp, whose shop is next door, values any jewellery that is donated free of charge.
Ms Beynon added: “We are such a friendly branch and there is always ABBA playing in the background.
“Henley is such a lovely place. Everybody helps each other and it is so friendly. I have a wonderful team of volunteers and Rachel, my assistant manager, is absolutely amazing.
“Some of our volunteers have been here ever since the shop opened 11 years ago and they never let me down.
“Our team interact so well with the customers and they are so loyal and hard-working. We have become good friends and we are all like a family.
“I think it is in our nature to want to help others.”
SUE RYDER: The South Oxfordshire palliative care hub in Nettlebed is arguably the best- known charity in Henley and many locals have seen their relatives cared for at the hospice.
In the year 2018/19, the shop raised £121,000 and it is 40 per cent above target for the current year.
It has welcomed a number of famous faces through the doors, including comedian Russell Brand and actor Simon Williams, who both live locally, and there are often high-end brands to be found on the clothes rails.
The shop’s tagline is “boutique feel, bargain prices”.
For the past year it has been managed by Cuneyt Sengunes, who was assistant manager for four years previously. He is supported by 20 volunteers, 17 of whom joined last year.
Mr Sengunes, 48, lives in Goodall Close, Henley, and used to shop in charity shops before he started working in them.
Mr Sengunes said: “I would visit charity shops quite a lot because I always thought that there was a certain convenience about them. I have always thought it is important to support them because they are all working for good causes.
“Henley is such a great town. Everyone is so generous and the customers are amazing.
“We have so many people in to see us on the weekends. They know they can get items at a fraction of the price and we get so many brilliant items donated.
“But it is not just about getting a bargain. They also want to support a good cause. This is such an important charity to the local area and I think that makes a huge difference to why we do so well.
“We also have a great connection with the customers and they always say how clean and well-presented the shop is.
“Considering a lot of the major high street stores are having difficulties, it is a huge boost for us to say that we are actually increasing the amount of money we make each year.”
Mr Sengunes said that even if he wasn’t the paid shop manager he would be there as a volunteer.
“This job is so much more than the average retail job,” he said. “People think we just sit at a till, but you would not believe how much work has to be done. We are supposed to work 9-5 but sometimes I will do a 6-8 because that is just what needs to be done.
“I don’t have any problems with working longer hours. I want to make the extra effort. We want the shop to be as successful as possible.”
The shops sells about 400 items a day. The best-sellers are women’s clothing, handbags and jewellery.
It receives donations of Armani, Stella McCartney and Versace and a John Galliano dress worth £2,000 recently sold for about £200.
The shop received a pair of boots from John Lobb, who provided shoes to various members of the royal family. Staff were thinking of offering them for £70 but the charity put them on eBay and made £366.
The charity often uses online auctions to try to get the best price for items, using a two-week stock rotation to keep the shelves fresh.
Mr Sengunes believes all the charity shops in Duke Street will continue to thrive due to their causes.
He explained: “Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer and all the other shops do wonderful work in their own right.
“I don’t see it as competition. I actually think it helps us. I know all the other managers and staff at the other charity shops and there is a friendly relationship between us all.”
Sarah Castle, 53, who lives in Henley with her husband John, volunteers at the shop on Sunday afternoons.
It provides her with a useful distraction from her job as the Government’s official solicitor and public trustee. Mrs Castle was the first woman to be appointed to the role in July having been a solicitor for 25 years.
She said: “I started to volunteer around the same time that I got my new job, which is probably a bit crazy. It makes me feel a bigger part of the community that I live in and it is my opportunity to do something completely different and it is very rewarding. I love the people I work with and enjoy seeing the customers.
“I was absolutely blown away by the donations we receive. We get things all the time that would not be out of place on the set of Downton Abbey. We have some terrific designer items and I have had a Burberry trench coat before.
“It is not the same for all parts of the country. Henley is a great place for charity shops — everyone is so giving. If you are into fashion, like me, it is a great place to work. Sustainable fashion is becoming a lot more trendy and people are really starting to think about the way they shop. I have donated lots of items to the shop and I always buy things from here too. My house is a revolving door of items coming in and out.
“I take my charity work very seriously. I treat my window display as if it was something in Harrods. I don’t think of it as a charity shop. I want it to be seen as a fabulous place to shop.”
CANCER RESEARCH: Over the last 40 years, cancer survival rates have doubled but this progress would not have been possible without public support.
Cancer Research does not receive any support from the Government, but the charity’s campaign ambassadors have been able to secure a £23million investment towards radiotherapy treatment in the NHS.
The charity has more than 600 shops across the UK and these raised a combined total of £26million last year.
The Henley shop, which opened in 1987, sells clothing, shoes, accessories, DVDs, books, homeware and handbags.
Emily Tarrant, from Benson, who has been in charge for six months, said: “Everybody knows someone, either in their family or a friend, who has been diagnosed with cancer and that means everything we do here is appreciated and it is worthwhile.
“We have people come into the shop who are either going through it or have recently lost a loved one.
“We are very lucky to have so many wonderful donations from the people of Henley. My lovely volunteers will talk to anyone and we have made ourselves an important part of the community. We are a lovely bunch and we try to create a friendly atmosphere.
“Helping the community by being a kind ear is an important aspect of what we do. It is incredibly important that we are compassionate.”
She says the shop has a lot of good quality stock.
“High-end and designer items are donated all of the time and I think that helps massively,” said Miss Tarrant. “People come here and know they can find quality items at a good price.
“I also think people are more accepting of charity shops and second-hand clothing than they used to be. The younger generation seems to be more aware.”
Audrey Richardson, of Wootton Road, Henley, has been volunteering at the shop for 28 years. She works on Monday mornings.
She founded Henley Stroke Club in 1981 and was the chairwoman for more than 20 years.
She was previously a physiotherapist at Townlands Hospital for 35 years and had breast cancer in 2000, which was caught early.
Mrs Richardson said: “When I started, I was out in the back room. I would iron the clothes so that they could be put out on the shop floor but now I am at the counter serving customers, so I get to meet people every day.
“I had never been in charity shops before I started volunteering and now I shop exclusively in them.
“I go on lots of cruises throughout the year and all of my cruise gear is from here. I think lots of customers are waking up to the realisation that you can get great quality at a good price in charity shops.” Mrs Richardson said she didn’t volunteer for the recognition but because she enjoyed the work.
“I enjoy chatting with the people and finding the items they are looking for,” she said. “I can get up in the morning feeling creaky but by the time I leave the shop feel 20 years younger. I go out bouncing and I would say that volunteering here keeps me young. I shall be here until I can’t stand any more.
“Henley is a lovely town with some lovely people and they all want to help out by doing something for a good cause.
“This shop has gone through many changes over the years. When I first started there was not a paid manager but now we couldn’t do without one.”
In 2013, the shop was refurbished to provide a new floor and a larger storage area, which has allowed it to accept more donations.
At the time, it was ranked as the charity’s second-best performing outlet in the Thames Valley.
Following the refurbishment, Boris Johnson visited the shop and met the volunteers. The former Henley MP donated one of his ties and then bought a replacement.
BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION: Vital research into heart-related illnesses would stop tomorrow if this charity did not exist.
It has more than 730 shops across the UK, which generated nearly
£23million last year after selling 74,000 tons of goods.
The Henley shop was opened in May 2018 by then Mayor Kellie Hinton and became the sixth charity shop in Duke Street.
Mags Richardson, the area manager, said the charity had been trying to move into the town for about a decade before finding the right location. One of her proudest moments in her 20 years with the charity was when it embarked on a mission to have CPR put on the national curriculum in a bid to create “a nation of lifesavers”. The Government has announced that CPR will be taught to children in primary and secondary schools from September, along with first aid.
Mrs Richardson said: “We get no government funding and if we had to pull out of research projects then it would be worrying.
“We give £100 million a year to education and research. Who would pay for it if we had to stop? We carry quite a big responsibility but we relish it at the same time. I am amazed by our researchers, who are the most amazing people. I have met the person who was responsible for inventing stents, which has revolutionised heart surgery. He is the most down-to-earth man you could ever wish to meet and is so lovely.
“We take volunteers to visit the labs and they are thanked by these very clever people and that means everything to them. They say they don’t know how we do it and how we manage to make money from nothing.
“I am in a lucky position where I have met some amazing people in my life and I will never take that for granted.”
The Henley shop has been managed for the last six months by Fran Barter, who started as a sales assistant on 13 hours a week.
She said: “It is more rewarding than I ever imagined it would be. We have built up a good relationship with the customers and they come back time and time again to see what we have got in. There is never a dull moment. I absolutely love it.
“Customers know they can get good quality here and there is always something that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. I only shop in charity shops and I can tell you I don’t miss a thing.
“This is quite an affluent area and all the charity shops are really well supported. I think having so many in one place works because of the type of community we have.”
A Christian Dior dress donated at the Henley shop was listed on the charity’s eBay page and sold for £210.
Georgina Agar, from Fawley, is one of the charity’s youngest workers at 19. She said: “It is a very busy place to work and it can be tiring but it is also a lot of fun. I enjoy being able to talk to the customers and you have to be well organised to get everything done.
“It is a charity that I would donate to even before I started working here. I enjoy knowing that whatever I do is going to make a difference. This has always been the charity that has meant the most to my family. My dad had to have a heart operation when I was younger but he is fine now.”
Carol Sawyer, from Reading, is the shop’s longest-serving volunteer and spends three days a week there. She can usually be found behind the counter, serving customers with a beaming smile.
She has been at the shop since it first opened, having worked for
W H Smith for 12 years previously.
Mrs Sawyer said: “I knew I wanted to get involved at this shop as soon as I saw they were looking for volunteers.
“The thing I enjoy the most is the customer service and providing them with a great experience. I love talking to the customers and helping them.
“Seeing them leave with nice happy smiles is what I look for.”
13 January 2020
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