Our charity shops not only play an important role in raising funds for the vital work carried out by St John’s Hospice – they also serve as a hub for the local community as a whole.

Veronica McGeehan is the area shop manager, running both of the shops under the St John’s Hospice umbrella; the flagship branch in St John’s Wood, and the Finchley Road branch that opened more recently in 2017. We spoke to her about what makes our charity shops special and why locals enjoy popping in for a chat.

Our charity shops are a local institution – and we’re expanding. 

Our St John’s Wood High Street branch has been at that location for over 16 years, and it was just refurbished in November last year – completely free of charge by a construction company called Collins.

The Finchley Road branch was opened to support it because of the sheer volume of donations. You would be amazed at the amount and quality of the donations we get. We can receive up to 120 bags in one week at the St John’s Wood shop, and realistically we can’t stock all of it there as it’s a quarter of the size of the Finchley Road shop.

Today, for example, we’ve brought over 60 bags from the St John’s Wood shop, and there’s still probably another 40 bags there to be brought across. I’m never going to need to go to the gym!

We’re a crucial source of revenue for St John’s Hospice.

Last year, the St John’s Wood branch generated £185,000, while the Finchley Road shop raised £93,000 – which is up a massive £45,000 on the previous financial year. Between the two we’re getting close to £300,000, which is pretty impressive when you take into account that we’re continuing to develop both of them.

Finchley Road is going to get a little bit more tweaking – adding new fittings so we can increase the amount of stock. So things are headed in a really good direction – and 100% of our proceeds go directly towards supporting the hospice.

We rotate the stock to keep things fresh – and it has increased our profits. 

The extra £45,000 that we generated at Finchley Road last year is a result of stock rotation.  This means that all the items go out on the shop floor for two weeks, and then it goes down to half price. If it doesn’t get sold at the St John’s Wood shop then it’ll get bagged up and sent down to Finchley Road, where the process will start again.

If there are items that don’t sell on the shop floor, we can also get them recycled. So we then get paid for items that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to sell – that includes clothing, bric-a-brac, or even items that we can’t sell for hygiene or liability reasons, like towels and linen. So we can still raise money while being eco-friendly at the same time – even if we aren’t necessarily selling the items.

Our volunteers aren’t just helping the hospice – they’re helping the community.

We’ve got around 20 to 30 volunteers in total, and some of them are donating up to 16 hours of their own time every week. Within our St. John’s Wood shop alone, we have more than 20 volunteers, and the majority of them have been there for eight years or more. So the commitment is very high. And within the last couple of weeks, we’ve had three new people join. However, we’re always on the lookout for more volunteers and would love to hear from people who are interested in getting involved.

The shops are a bit of a hub for the local areas too. Sometimes people come in here not necessarily to buy things, but just to have a natter. Just to engage and have some human contact. So there’s a social aspect to the work as well, and that’s very satisfying.

There’s something special about working to help St John’s Hospice. 

It’s really great to be managing shops that are growing quickly, and I’m really proud to be a part of that development. It’s extremely fulfilling to know that when I do something right, I know it’s for the betterment of the hospice and the community around it.

I have meetings with the volunteer coordinator at St John’s Hospice most weeks, and it’s wonderful to be in there seeing people coming in and receiving the treatment they need. I think St John’s Hospice is special because it’s not only focused on palliative care, but offers a broad range of services for those with chronic health conditions as well.

Looking back at my work here, a real highlight was seeing the end result of the St John’s Wood refurbishment. We’d all wanted it for such a long time, and within the first six hours of reopening we had made £1,300. It really shows the potential for how much of a positive difference the shop can make, so that for me was very satisfying.

If you want to become a volunteer, please contact our volunteer coordinator Sophie Gray on sophie.gray@hje.org.uk