Feature: The weird and wonderful items that give St Luke's hospice a vital cash boost

Chris Quinlan and Marie Egerton head up the retail side of St Luke's
Chris Quinlan and Marie Egerton head up the retail side of St Luke's
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St Luke's hospice are calling on you to get involved and volunteer in one of their many stores to help continue the vital work they do.

Of 14 stores in Sheffield, some are running on low staff and bosses are keen to hear from budding applicants.

The new St Luke's shop at Manor Top

The new St Luke's shop at Manor Top

The retail arm of St Luke's pulls in millions - all of which is ploughed straight back in to continuing staff to carry out end of life care.

But the job is anything but dull. From your usual t-shirts and coats, to books and furniture to the more wacky and damn-right bizarre when someone offered a pair of coffins.

St Luke's even offer an NVQ in retail for people looking to get into the job market. The course has propelled people once unemployed to volunteering at St Luke's before going onto become a deputy store manager.

And it's not just for retired folk with a some hours to spare in their week. The volunteers age range from 14 to 90-year-old Brenda manning till one day a week.

Alex Pettifer MBE opens the new St Luke's shop at Manor Top

Alex Pettifer MBE opens the new St Luke's shop at Manor Top

"A lot of people think working in a charity shop is just popping behind the counter and serving on a till," said Chris Quinlan, head of retail at the hospice.

She opened St Luke's first ever shop back in 1985 and persuaded the charity to open more shops.

"A lot of people might walk by and think 'I don't want to do that' but there is so much going on behind the scenes, researching products to maybe a younger person who might be really good at IT that we need to sorting out the eBay account. There's loads going on to get stuck into.

"I don't think you could ever get enough volunteers," Marie Egerton, Chris's deputy said. "There's always something that needs to be done, something new we could be exploring or some initiative that's going on we could be taking advantage of.

Inside the new St Lukes shop at Manor Top

Inside the new St Lukes shop at Manor Top

"To be brutally honest, we haven't got a enough people on the shop floor. We love somebody at the door, meeting and greeting, signing up the gift aid and things like that."

"It's very much like a family, somebody said that recently and it stuck with me. All of the volunteers have their own valid reasons for being with us and most of them have made friends for life. People might have got involved with us because they might not be that confident and months down the line are going out a lot more with a new group of pals.

"For us being a Sheffield charity, people getting involved with us know they could be helping their neighbours, family member or close friend. I think that's extremely rewarding."

Despite being the main income stream, for St Luke's, without the donations from ordinary people, the hospice would struggle to keep going as it is.

"We get stock from all over the place. The people of Sheffield are so generous towards St Luke's and I think it's because you can see what's happening right on the doorstep they see where their money is going."

Without the generosity of Sheffield folk, St Luke's would not be the place it is today. Many items have passed through the shop doors which have amazed and raised plenty of eyebrows.

"We've had loads of weird and wonderful stuff and we've won an award for it as well. It was for two coffins.

"We were a bit perplexed and wasn't sure at first how to approach it but we thought it was best to ask a funeral director who is a regular shopper with us and he sold them on behalf of us which was great.

"We've also had a full-size wicker Harley Davidson," Marie added. "It looked absolutely amazing we had it proudly on display in our Ecclesall Road shop and we got some good money for it.

"Somebody has even given us a Volkswagen camper van, mint condition and we sold it at auction for around £8,000. We've had a conservatory, a holiday and even a set of false teeth you name it, we've had it," Chris said.

"It just goes to show the generosity of the people of Sheffield and we're so grateful."