Willow Charity Shop Manager, Stephanie, reflects on year one in Stevenage ahead of their birthday celebrations this weekend: 

"I know it’s cliché but I can hardly believe it’s been a year since we opened our shop in Stevenage. It’s been a fantastic twelve months and we have a great staff team in place, superb volunteers and excellent customers, too.

The feedback we receive from customers is probably one of the highlights of my job. It took a little while to get going (as these things do) but as soon as our customers found us they haven’t stopped coming back. The community support has just kept growing. They tell me they love the variety of our stock, the quality, and they’re also very fond of us too which is especially nice - particularly our chatty volunteers!

It’s also a privilege to meet people who have had their very own Special Day. Monika, who lives in the local area, popped in with her children and they were so excited to see pictures of them at Peppa Pig World on the wall. Monika chose her day for her children as her little girls had been so brave throughout her treatment. Knowing that Willow was able to give her family a weekend of fun and laughter is what motivates us all.

Carolyn, one of our shop volunteers, is particularly passionate about Willow and loves to tell everyone how we were able to support her family. Her nephew, Tom, has been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and she encouraged him to apply for a Special Day. Willow arranged for Tom and his partner, Holly, to have a special evening at Heston Blumenthal’s renowned restaurant The Fat Duck. Carolyn told me:

“What Willow can do for these young people who are suffering is just fantastic. I recently joined Tom for a chemo session, it’s heart-breaking to see him going through this, and at such a young age. His Special Day gave him something so positive to focus on and look forward to.”

Recently Carolyn got a surprise when she walked in the shop door and saw her own face beaming down at her! A keen runner, she took part in last year’s Willow 10K, and has now found herself as the poster child for our fun run. Needless to say it is a fantastic photo and epitomises her passion for the cause.

It really has been a brilliant first year and I am immensely proud to be part of Team Willow. My hope is that next year we continue to go from strength to strength, helping to grow the amount of Special Days we can provide.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who has supported all of our shops get off the ground - whether you’re in the local area or beyond - you really have made it all possible."

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