National Volunteers Week – Denise’s Story

This National Volunteers Week Compton Hospice will be awarding its volunteers for their  commitment and dedicated service to the hospice. A special awards evening will be held at Penn Bowling Club today, Friday 6th June, where a total of 87 volunteers will receive awards ranging from 5 up to 30 years voluntary service.

One volunteer who will be receiving an award this evening is Denise O’Donnell. Denise will pick up her 30 year service award having been a volunteer at our charity shop on Compton Road West since 1984. Here Denise tells us about her love for volunteering and how the friends she has made along the way have helped her through some extremely difficult times.

Denise’s Story

Back in 1984 I had set my sights on becoming an Auxiliary Nurse, however I was turned down for the role on account of my asthma.

To take my mind off the disappointment of not getting my dream job I decided to look for a role in the voluntary sector. I visited the Volunteer Bureau in Wolverhampton who had just received notification that Compton Hospice were extending and opening a charity shop.

I started volunteering at the shop back then and have been here ever since! I am Denise ODonnell webtrained in all aspects of charity shop work from working on the till, sorting clothing and pricing items. Back then we didn’t have as many volunteers as we do now, so we all got stuck in with different jobs.

I still enjoy volunteering now as much as I did on day one. I love the comradery, and I just love seeing the customers. All of us volunteers, we do have a laugh, and I’ve made some great friends. Some days if you aren’t feeling great, you come in and you are met with warmth, and with hugs and cuddles.

I’m an only child, so for me, the friends I have made through volunteering are almost like family. They have been there for me through good and bad times. 

I lost my daughter Janine to ovarian cancer in April 2012. She passed away here at the hospice. Everybody knew Janine – she would come and visit me in the shop on a weekly basis and bought nearly all of her clothes from the shop. She used to tell people that her clothes were by CHS (Compton Hospice Shop). When she became ill she came onto the Inpatient Unit at her request. I was living with her at the time, helping to look after her and my granddaughter, so I think she could sense I was struggling.  Janine passed away just 4 days after arriving on the Inpatient Unit, she was 40.

Janine’s death was difficult for a lot of the other volunteers and hospice staff to take. They’d come to know and love her as a regular visitor to the shop.

I did wonder whether I would be able to come back to volunteer, but my volunteer family rallied around me. The charity shop manager comforted me, invited me in to talk and have a cup of tea and eventually over time I felt it was ready to come back.

The satisfaction for me is that I know I am helping by volunteering my time. I’m helping the hospice to care for patients, patients just like my Janine. I do my bit with fundraising too, the family goes to the hospice’s Compton in the Park event every year, and my son Carl has now become a member of the board. We are always encouraging our friends and family to visit the shops as well, whether it’s donating items for picking up a bargain.

I now volunteer at the shop once a week on a Friday. When I arrive, I always ask what the managers want me to do. Usually I will help to sort through the donations, put clothes on hangers and help to price items up. I’ll have a look around the shop and say hello to any customers I recognise. I also do my bit to help keep the shop floor looking tidy.

Volunteering at Compton Hospice is like being part of a big family. We all get on great, because we are all here for the same reason – to help Compton Hospice! It really doesn’t feel like I have been here for 30 years, I just hope I will be able to continue to volunteer for Compton Hospice for a long time to come.  

National Volunteers week runs from Volunteers-Week Logo1st to 7th June every year and aims to recognise the contribution of the 20 million across the UK who volunteer every year, donating more than 100 million hours to their community every week. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of National Volunteers Week. For more information visit www.volunteersweek.org

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