Sandra Hunt, Dartmouth Cancer Research Store
Who are you? Sandra Hunt.
What is your job? I’m the manager of the Cancer Research UK charity shop in Duke Street in Dartmouth. I look after two paid staff and a team of about 15 regular volunteers who are hard working, dedicated and great fun. A couple of our ladies have been here since the shop opened in 1997. We’re always very busy and we would love more volunteers to join our team, even if you only have a spare hour here or there. We try to keep the shop fresh and the displays effective, but with more help there is so much more I would like to do. What I’d really love is to recruit specialists. It would be wonderful to have someone, for example, who would look after all the books, or take care of the cards, or organise the bric-a-brac. We have some amazing things donated to us and really want to make the most of every donation. It’s a great job – no two days are the same and you never know what is going to come through those doors next! If you want to join us, come in and have a cuppa and a chat and let us know when you can start.
How long have you worked there? I’ve been the manager for five years, but for the five years prior to that I was the assistant manager. The shop has been here for 13 years, and in that time it has raised more than £1.7 million for Cancer Research. Although it’s a charity shop we are careful about how we display our merchandise and about quality. I enjoy doing the displays, thinking about colour and themes, and rotating the stock for a fresh look, for new seasons, and for special events – like saving up and putting out fancy dress items for New Year, thinking of things for nativity plays (tea towels, dressing gowns, white sheets and colourful shiny fabric for the wise men!) or finding costumes for school children who have to dress up as anything from evacuees to Victorians!
Do you live nearby? I live in Dartmouth and have been here all my life. I absolutely love it and have never had any desire to live anywhere else. Why would you? It’s beautiful. I love the pace of life here – and there are so many great places to eat out.
Can you tell us about your family? I’m married to Christopher and we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year. My daughter, Tia, is at university in Hertfordshire, and I have two stepsons, Kye and Troy, who live nearby.
What do you like to do when you are not at work? Christopher and I love foreign travel. Last year we travelled extensively in South America, and we plan to spend our wedding anniversary in Southern India. We went to Northern India for our 20th anniversary and Christopher gave me a new wedding ring at the Taj Mahal. It’s an absolutely beautiful country – everything you see is amazing, it takes your breath away. I also love reading – and food!
Have you ever worked anywhere else? I used to work in the old China Shop and in Woolworths, but I was a traffic warden for many years. I did two seasons in Dartmouth but it wasn’t a good idea to work in the town where I lived, so I moved across to Totnes. I gave it up when I had my daughter 20 years ago.
What is the best thing about your job? I love the fact that Cancer Research shops generate so much money for the charity, to help people who are gravely ill. Just £10 can buy 300 glass slides for studying cells and tumour samples under a microscope – that’s about five books, or three jumpers. Our cards are really popular and 70 per cent of the price of a Cancer Research UK greetings card goes directly to the charity, which is a very high percentage. Our Christmas cards are always in demand. It seems awful to put them out in the summer but people come in asking for them before Regatta and they are on display and selling by mid August.
People are very generous in what they donate to the shop. We often get designer clothes or brand new items with the original shop price tag still in place that have never been worn. We recently made £375 selling one beaded lampshade, and £175 on a diamond and sapphire ring. People bring in such lovely things and it is wonderful that they choose to support the charity. But nothing is wasted, even donations that are not sellable quality. All the builders come to us for dust sheets and they take the more tired looking bedding. We get lots of requests for rags for boat engines too. Every week a rag man comes and buys all our fabric items that aren’t suitable to sell. They go to an organisation in Bristol that sends clothing and material to the third world. He also buys up bric-a-brac and shoes that can’t go on the shop floor. We can sell rag bags to customers if they need bits and bobs of material, maybe for quilts or to make bunting.
A lot of collectors come in and look for jewellery, ceramics, glassware or books. We’re becoming experts on what is collectable and what isn’t and try to price accordingly because the aim is to raise money for research into cancer.
There are a plenty of odd donations – half used bottles of shampoo or half eaten tins of biscuits, we even had a gold grown once! But of course everyone likes a bargain and there are always lots to be had here. Buying second hand has never been more popular.
First Published June 2010 By The Dart