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Shining a light on our unsung supporter heroes!

29 November 2017

Throughout the year, the charity is supported by hundreds of unsung heroes, who selflessly give their time to supporting PCRF in so many different ways.

Hilary Archer from Wilmslow in Cheshire volunteers at the Combined Charities Christmas Card Shop every November and December, selling PCRF Christmas cards and bringing good cheer to all the shoppers.

How did you become involved in volunteering?
In 2000, I retired and moved to Wilmslow with my husband Mike. I wanted to do some volunteering and make new friends in the area. I found the Combined Charities Christmas Card Shop in Wilmslow by chance and thought it was such a great idea and I’ve been on the Saturday rota ever since!

Hilary Archer (centre) with husband Mike

What is the concept behind Combined Charities initiative?
There are 6 ‘pop-up’ shops around the South Manchester area that operate usually from November to early December selling Christmas cards from over 50 different charities - from huge national charities to tiny local ones - all under one roof. Its website lists all the cards too, so you can buy them online if you don’t live near a shop.  The shops’ running costs are covered by the sale of novelty and ‘stocking filler’ gifts, which mean the charities receive 100% of their card sales. It’s been running for 45 years now, has earned over £5million in total for the charities it represents and deservedly earned its founder, Sheila Hallas, an MBE.

What does your work involve?
Until 2014, I worked there in a general capacity, helping out, keeping the place tidy, serving and helping customers and so forth.  But in September 2014 I lost my sister, Elizabeth, to pancreatic cancer. After that, I got in touch with Maggie Blanks at PCRF and I started representing PCRF specifically, looking after the PCRF Christmas cards that have been given space in the Wilmslow shop.  I’m proud to help raise money for research - something that I know Elizabeth would appreciate.

Tell us more about Elizabeth
Elizabeth was a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool. She was a pioneer in so many ways, not just as a role model for women in science but also for applying her skills as a metallurgist to the field of archaeology and the early use of new technologies, such as radiocarbon dating.  After her death, the University of Liverpool named its new dedicated archaeological research laboratories after her, a facility that she had tirelessly campaigned for.

She was one of the lucky ones who, despite an initial misdiagnosis, was still caught early enough for surgery because the cancer had not yet spread. She needed some chemotherapy to shrink the tumour away from a major artery. We – and she – really thought that she’d been given a chance to fight the disease, but it wasn’t to be. She developed an infection which delayed her operation and in that time the cancer took too great a hold. It was a terrible shock to lose her.  

My sister was only 68 when she died, which is no age at all. I lost my little sister and only sibling. She had dedicated her life to her research and had not long retired when she was diagnosed. She still had so much to give and so much life to live. She was full of joy and I miss her enormously.

Will you continue to volunteer at the pop-up shop?
Absolutely – I’ve always loved doing it, but I have extra reason now and I do it in tribute to Elizabeth.  The reason for people buying charity Christmas cards can often be a sad one, but this is such a happy place to work and a happy place to shop. Everyone who volunteers here is a joy to work with and we love giving shoppers a friendly warm welcome when they drop in.

You can find out more about the Combined Charities Christmas Card Shops at http://www.christmas-cards.org.uk/  The Wilmslow shop is open until 09 December. Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 9am - 5pm; Monday & Thursday: 9am - 7pm.

Wilmslow's Combined Charities Christmas Card shop

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