Kington Hospice Shop: to eBay and Beyond!

Kington Hospice Shop is a vital part of their local community and a regular part of the online auction house community, too

Being an active part of two communities: Kington Hospice Shop and eBay

The idea for a Hospice Shop at Kington began some 25 years ago, when manager Lynn Rogers’ mother, Betty Canvin, had a special GP. Dr Richard Miller, one of the founding members of St Michael’s Hospice, discussed Betty’s options with her after her cancer diagnosis.

‘My mother had nursed several family members at home herself, and she understood the strain that it placed on carers. Dr Miller explained about the Hospice and how it worked, and she wanted to go that route. The care she received was so wonderful that I knew I wanted to give something back.’

Lynn started working as a volunteer at the St Michael’s Hospice Shop in the original Cattle Market in Hereford, but it was quite a commute from Kington every week, and Lynn and her husband, Dave, felt that Kington could sustain its own Hospice Shop.

Once Dave was able to negotiate an early retirement from the civil service in Wolverhampton and Lynn was finishing up teaching food technology and textiles around the Midlands, they decided to pursue their idea in earnest.

‘We started with a couple of pop-up shops in the town centre that were very successful: when the current building came up for rental 14 years ago, we found that it was right on the High Street where we wanted to be and the landlord was a great supporter of St Michael’s.’

Although it has a compact showroom space, it is obvious from the constant positive chatter on the shop floor that this Hospice Shop is an integral part of the Kington community. Dave says that this is down to their incredibly talented and friendly volunteers. “They are all so friendly that people often just stop by for a chat on their way around town. Even the volunteers will pop round to have a chat when it isn’t even their shift. just to catch up.’

The independent, capable nature of their volunteers has made it possible for Lynn and Dave to continue to enjoy their retirement. Lynn explains, ‘ When we both retired, we wanted to be able to spend our summers narrowboating together, so we wanted to ensure that all the Kington volunteers had ownership of the shop. Every single one of them knows how to open the shop and lock up, how to turn on the lights and how to run the building. It means we get more time to spend on other pursuits.’

One new pursuit for Lynn has been selling selected brand name, collectible or costly donated goods on eBay, the internet sales auction website. In 2015, Lynn was able to raise more than £2,000 for the Hospice through the site, just using the more unusual items that were donated to the shop.

‘It all started when a matron of a boarding school brought us a mint-in-the-box Hermes scarf that she’d received as a present from one of her pupils. I thought I might try to sell it myself and made over £140 by putting it on eBay.’

Over time, Lynn, Dave and the other volunteers have become adept at spotting potential eBay items, putting them aside for Lynn to authenticate. Lynn explains, ‘We have to be extremely careful to ensure that everything we sell is the real thing and we always give the most accurate descriptions possible. I research everything we sell online, checking labels, hall marks and any insignias or signatures that might give us a hint of what the item might be worth. I feel a responsibility to the donors to get the maximum return.’

Lynn has vetted and sold Chanel and Liberty scarves, jewellery, Victoriana memorabilia, Welsh tapestry blankets and toys that have special meanings to serious collectors. ‘I was thrilled when my 1970s Paddington Bear fetched £74.’

A recent auction item of a china curio with the young Queen Victoria displayed on it fetched an impressive £225.

This extra income for the Hospice is very welcome, but without the more flexible management of the Kngton shop it would probably prove to be tough to find the time to make it work. Lynn advises, ‘You need one person to be dedicated to authenticating, taking accurate photos and writing up the items, answering any queries and finally delivering the items. We want to avoid negative feedback at all costs.’

Dave is quick to praise the Hospice Shop’s 20 volunteers: ‘They are such a brilliant group, the best around: so responsible and welcoming to everyone. It’s a small community here, but it is very strong. Our volunteers really represent that vital sense of community.’

Heather Hince has bee volunteering at the Kington Hospice Shop for over 10 years. She started off taking two shifts but decided to reduce it to Tuesday mornings after she turned 80. She calls it her ‘sacred morning’, when she can come in with her neighbour, Iris Goodwin, and walk back with her after their shift.

Heather said, ‘My friend’s daughter was in the Hospice 20 years ago, and I was so impressed with the kindness that they showed her and her family. I retired from my position as a Nursing Assistant at a psychiatric hospital and thought that I wanted to give something back to the Hospice. They are all such lovely people here: I so enjoy the company, and everyone who comes in usually knows me or one of the other volunteers.’

Anne Whiting has only been a volunteer for the past 18 months, working one shift a week, but she agrees with Heather. ‘It’s great company and it’s an easy way to meet people. I’m from Pembridge, so it’s nice to pop in and enjoy this community. The donations are amazing here: I love the china the most, especially old vases.’

Iris Goodwin has been volunteering for 9 years, ever since she and her husband retired from farming and moved in down the road from Heather. Iris remarked, ‘The shop is always filled with chatter, with a nice atmosphere. And after I lost two sisters-in-law to cancer, the Hospice’s work has real importance to me. We’ve always had to work round my shifts here, booking holidays that don’t interfere with my Hospice Shop hours.

‘After my husband died six moths ago, coming to this place was a life-saver for me. I had my own family’s support, they were lovely; but we are like a family here, too, supporting each other. I don’t consider it work.’

Dave and Lynn were delighted to accept a Civic Award in May 2014 from the Town of Kington on behalf of all their hardworking and supportive volunteers at Kington Hospice Shop, a fantastic achievement for any charity shop in such a tight-knit community.