We awoke bleary eyed and tired following a fantastic Christmas meal the night before. Feet were dragging and yawns were heard as we made ourselves to one of St Luke’s charity shops last Thursday. I, for one, wasn’t sure we’d make it. Boy was I wrong. From the moment we arrived it was clear we would have to step up and work hard to do these people some good. And I would say we rose to the challenge.
St Luke’s is an independent charity and hospice that works across Sheffield with people, 18 and over, who are suffering with a terminal illness. They aim to deliver the best possible palliative and end of life care in Sheffield without charge, whilst developing and driving continual improvements (something that I think we in UC can relate to) for everyone affected by terminal illnesses. Their amazing work helps over 5000 people every year, with up to 400 patients in their actual patient centre.
Of course, none of this is cheap. In fact, it costs St Luke’s £10 million’s a year to keep everything running. Much of this money comes from fundraising: people giving money out of their own pockets. But around 40% of that money comes from charity shops like the one we worked in. They rely on thousands upon thousands of donations each year from members of the public. And that’s where we were set to work.
Deep in the depths of the shop we found
ourselves surrounded by an onslaught of weird and wonderful donations. From giant teddies to strange dolls, we were tasked with the quest of sorting through all the Christmas donations ready for sale before the Christmas period is done. And there were a lot. I had never seen a giant bauble before and now I am pretty sure I have seen giant baubles more times than I have eaten breakfast (though I am notorious for skipping breakfast for an extra 10 minutes slumber to be fair). Many of these decorations were incredibly dirty and quite a few needed throwing out. Note to all readers: if your donating something to a charity shop, make sure it’s something that someone would actually want to buy!
Amongst the huge numbers of decorations, we found countless Christmas cards. So many different patterns, many that I would have bought myself. This took up much of our time, sorting and counting the various designs ready for sale. You never realise how heavy Christmas cards can be until you are carrying 150 packets of them in a large container across a storage hall. Others of us spent hours pulling down heavy racking (a job I carefully avoided) and arranging furniture. Jon even managed to flog off a bed to some unsuspecting customers. Luckily, St Luke’s checks the structural integrity of all of their furniture. They run a tight ship.
By the end of the day we were tired but accomplished. The store manager, a lovely woman called Emma, was even surprised by how much we got through. I think everyone felt proud of what they accomplished, though we were all ready for bed. What struck me about St Luke’s is their passion for helping people. Everywhere I looked the place was filled with unpaid volunteers who come every week to get down and dirty and do what needs to be done. Talking to them you could feel their passion for their community, for St Luke’s. As Coretta Scott King said: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members” and this was a community filled with greatness, as it was a community filled with compassion. And I think this rings true for our programme. It was a stark reminder that the work we do every day is our chance to help those most vulnerable in our communities, and here these volunteers were doing it for free.
I came away from the day feeling like we had made a difference to people. But, more than that, I came away in awe of the people who do this without asking for praise, without complaining and make this fantastic organisation run. People filled with thankless compassion. People working to make their community a better place. I think I could learn a thing or two from them in my life. Maybe we all could?
Written by Edward Eggleton on behalf of all of Dom’s team