Sweet charity

“Oh my God, I love your skirt! Where did you get it?”

“It was my mom’s in the ‘80s.”

“Vintage, so adorable.”

Regina George may have been insincere, but there is nothing like a compliment on something you are wearing to brighten up your day. I find that the compliment is even better when the item was relatively inexpensive, no one else has it, and you did a good turn in purchasing it because it’s from a charity shop. A few weeks ago I stumbled across Helen and Douglas House in Summertown (they also have a shop in the Covered Market) and picked up a gorgeous bright red, orange and purple pleated maxi skirt for just £5. I’ve grilled Hayley Owen, the Business Development Manager at Helen & Douglas House about what it’s like to work for a charity, how money raised in-store helps the charities, and how we can do our bit.

Olivia: So Hayley, tell me a bit about Helen & Douglas House.

Hayley: The money raised through the 36 Helen & Douglas House shops goes directly towards the funding for children and young adults with life limiting conditions. When a child comes into the houses, the family is offered a number of nights annually for respite care. We make sure children have comfort, appropriate medical support and the chance to enjoy their life, even when that life is short.

O: What impact do the stores have on the funding of the hospices?

H: It costs £5 million every year to run the 2 hospice houses, the vast majority of this funding comes directly from the shops and voluntary sources. A large percentage of that £5 million need annually to run the hospices comes from our stores. Which couldn’t be done without the kindness of our volunteers that play a huge part in running our shops and most importantly the public who are the ones that fill our shops with their kind donations.

O: The Summertown store has a fantastic selection of vintage fashion. Where do these clothes come from?

H: Our donations come from all sorts of people from all sorts of places. We sold vintage in all of our shops, mixed in with the normal ‘highstreet’ clothing. We had a real build up of vintage and found there was such a huge market for it that we started to sell it at festivals, which went really well. We then came to the idea that we could reach this target market by having a shop specifically for vintage. Summertown is a great success and we have now turned our shop in the Covered Market into a vintage shop too.

O: Do you have a special interest in vintage fashion?

H: I have studied fashion for 5 years at college and University and have always been specifically interested in vintage.  What I like most is how it’s possible to mix vintage with high street for an on trend look.

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O: What attracted you to work for a charity, rather than in the private sector?

H: I volunteered with the charity and then went on to do an internship with the E-Commerce and Merchandising Manager, which opened my eyes to how interesting and detailed working in a charity is.  Being apart of such an amazing cause gives you a great sense of purpose and satisfaction. If I were working in a private sector, I wouldn’t be working to support the lives of children and young adults. . I may work as the Business Development and Brand Coordinator but if it weren’t for jobs like mine in the charity retail sector raising money, we wouldn’t have the complete funds to support the children.

O: How can students get involved in helping with the development of charity shops?

H: Students becoming involved with charity shops is definitely the future. We are always looking for new volunteers who are fresh and full of creative ideas, and that’s exactly what students are. By coming along and being a part of the shops, the retail office, fundraising or even in the warehouse office, students can make a huge difference and assist with the on going development that we have. We offer great internships and apprenticeships for students. It’s great work experience for the CV and really assists us in raising the £5 million we need every year to run the 2 hospice houses. With 36 shops, an ebay online store and many roles within retail and fundraising, there’s a huge variety of work experience opportunity.

Fashion is always changing, and keeping up with the latest trends is expensive. Trying out different charity stores is a great way to save money, ensure you have an individual look, and above all do your bit for charity. If you have any questions about Helen & Douglas House regarding internships and volunteering, send Hayley an e-mail: [email protected]