Back in 1998 Margarethe Marsh walked into her local St Luke’s charity shop and offered to help once a week. Twenty-five years on, she’s still volunteering at our Saltash branch and loving every minute of it.
This week shop manager Hayley Pollard was joined by St Luke’s head of retail Mike Picken and retail area manager John Saunders to congratulate Margarethe on her inspirational long service and present her with an engraved plaque, a certificate of recognition and flowers, as well as plenty of cake to share with her shop colleagues.
When Margarethe began volunteering, the Saltash St Luke’s shop was at the top of Fore Street, virtually next door to the opticians where she worked part time. Looking for something worthwhile to fill her time after her two daughters had grown up and left home, she popped in to ask her friend Brenda, then the shop manager, if she could lend a hand.
“And the rest is history,” laughed Margarethe, 74, whose infectious smile and ready humour light up the whole shop. “I knew Brenda socially and I had heard about St Luke’s, Dr Sheila Cassidy and the history of how it all started.
“I didn’t have any personal family reason for getting involved – I was very lucky then to have a healthy family – but it was a way for me to give something back.”
Living locally with her husband, she has been a stalwart of the volunteer team at Saltash once a week ever since, moving with the shop when it relocated to more modern and spacious premises closer to the Tamar Bridge around eight years ago.
Turning her hand to anything that needs doing, from serving customers and manning the till to sorting through donations, steaming clothes, pricing items and putting them out for sale on the shop floor, Margarethe says nothing much has changed over the years, apart from people’s attitudes to charity shops.
“They don’t have the stigma they used to,” says Margarethe. “There’s certainly nothing musty or smelly about this place and we’re very lucky with the donations and support we get here. Because St Luke’s is local, people are very generous.”
One of the aspects she enjoys most is the chance to spend time with a wide variety of people and she has a special camaraderie with her fellow volunteers and a great relationship with manager Hayley, as well as regular customers.
“It gives me friendship and a reason to be out,” adds Margarethe, whose activities have become a little restricted by a degenerative eye condition. “I can’t read, the TV is blurry and I’ve had to give away all my craft materials because I can’t see well enough any more. But there is always something useful for me to do here.”
She especially enjoys meeting the younger volunteers. “It’s lovely because you can be cheeky and fun with them. You can give them the benefit of your experience and you can learn a lot from them too.”
Find out more about volunteering with St Luke’s here.