Life

Manchester’s Unsung Heroes: NSPCC charity shop manager clocks up 25 years’ service to help city’s children

By Sam Ruffe

To be defined as an unsung hero you must do something special in life, go beyond the call of duty or make a difference.

Yet many of the people who do this often prefer to shun the limelight, choosing instead to applaud others around them rather than accepting the praise themselves.

And despite notching up more than 25 years of voluntary service, Swinton NSPCC charity shop manager Karen George is no exception.

“I would never see myself as a hero, everyone in the shop does their bit,” explained the 52-year-old Worsley resident.

“I am the manageress in my shop, and I do coordinate it but it’s my fantastic staff that put in the hard work.”

Karen’s remarkably long length of service with one of Britain’s most loved charities is something of a family affair.

In the 1980s she began visiting a nearby NSPCC shop with her mum Agnes and her Nanna, who would buy dolls and knit outfits for them before donating them back for fundraisers and raffles.

Agnes, who sadly passed away in 2007, would later go on to volunteer at the Worsley Road shop and in 1988 Karen decided to volunteer there herself.

“I can’t believe its 25 years now,” explained Karen, whose daughter Lyndsey also volunteers at the shop on Manchester Road.

“It was only when I was sat thinking about how old my daughter is now, that I kept thinking ‘god, this is a long time!’

“But it’s such an important charity, they need every penny they get. To know that you are making a difference for a child is fantastic.

“The NSPCC is here to help those who are at risk and I personally can’t think of a better cause to support – that’s why I love my work so much.”

Originally founded in 1884, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children aims to constantly improve issues surrounding child welfare.

It operates the NSPCC helpline, which helps anyone with concerns about a child, along with ChildLine which gives support to children themselves.

Karen and her team are among the 30,000 volunteers across the country working tirelessly to improve the lives of Britain’s children.

With a quarter of a century of volunteering under her belt, Karen, who also provides full time care for her 80-year-old father Harry, has plenty of fond memories.

One moment she is most proud of is the recognition the Swinton shop received in April 2012 after they raised more than £36,000 in just one year.

“It things like that when you know those sorts of the figures that makes it all worthwhile,” she said.

“For a child or concerned person to make a phone call to ChildLine or the NSPCC it costs us around £4 so when you equate it like that the £36,500 that we raised last year adds up to a lot of children using and benefitting from the service.

“When you break it down like this you see that when we sell two pairs of shoes for £2 each, that’s a phone called paid for, that’s a child picking a phone up and asking for help and getting it.

“I know people like my fundraising manager can go to a corporate event and raise more having a ten minute conversation than we can in a year but it all matters and we are still here doing our bit.”

The charity shop where Karen is now manageress is run entirely by volunteers and has a long-standing customer base  – many of whom Karen now describes more as friends than patrons.

“We have been invited to weddings, various parties and unfortunately the odd funeral,” she added.

“We know a lot of their individual needs and requirements and help as best we can. Our customers vary from young mums needing items for their children to elderly ladies wanting a comfy pair of shoes!

“A lot of people come in for a chat because we always have a laugh. Everyone is welcome here, and dealing and working with nice people is one of the best parts of the job.”

Deborah Sefton, NSPCC’s fundraising manager for Manchester, said the charity is indebted to people like Karen and her dedicated staff because of all the hard work they do.

She said: “I am very proud of what has been achieved by Karen and the local volunteers who run our Swinton Shop as they work so very hard to support the charity. 

“Volunteers are at the heart of our charity and make a huge contribution to all our work.

“I would also like to publicly thank them and all those who have supported them both in buying and donating goods.

“It is only with the generosity of people fundraising for the charity that we can offer our services. We couldn’t do it without them.”  

If you would like to support the NSPCC contact 0844 892 0253 or email [email protected]

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