Open for service
Charissa King visits a bustling, church-based charity shop in Leeds
‘We had a lawnmower donated the other week,’ says Pauline Peacock, a volunteer at the community charity shop based at Beeston Hill United Free Church, Leeds. ‘We’ve had wheelchairs, a suite of furniture, beds, curtains… and so many toys we could start a toy shop!’ In fact, donations are so plentiful that, since 2009, the shop has grown from one small room to three.
In the room at the back of the hall, I find four volunteers sorting and pricing donations. ‘It has taken off beyond our wildest dreams,’ says Carol Normanton – Beeston Hill’s administrator, whose idea it was to open the shop. Inspired by visiting a Methodist church’s charity shop, Carol tells me: ‘I stood in there and I thought: “We could do this.”’
They could and they did. Beeston Hill’s charity shop sells clothes, toys and household items, as well as offering tea and toast for 70p. Its staff are volunteers – church members, people of other faiths and local residents. All proceeds are fed back into the church and local community, for example subsidising the rent they charge community groups.
The hard work involved, and the joy it brings both volunteers and customers, are palpable. ‘We’re just busy, busy, busy. We’re victims of our own success,’ says Pauline, who spent six hours setting up the previous evening, and arrived at 6am today. Carol has reduced her working hours to further volunteer.
‘They’re a really nice bunch,’ says one regular customer. ‘Some community centres and shops don’t like children walking round or playing, but here, they’ve got a tub under the table with free toys. We bring stuff in to add to it. If they’re selling toys, they always let our children play with them.’…
Beeston Hill United Free Church’s charity shop was recognised in the United Reformed Church Community Project Awards 2016 – a scheme sponsored by Congregational Insurance. To volunteer at the shop, just walk in, or call Carol on 07746 569 507. Winners of the 2018 Community Project Awards will be announced at the URC General Assembly in July. Charissa King is Reform’s Production and Marketing Officer
This is an extract from an article that was published in the April 2018 edition of Reform