Charity workers give 30 years and £3m to the ‘benefit of the world’

Oxfam celebrate 30 years in Haywards Heath. Pic Steve Robards SUS-141216-142113001
Oxfam celebrate 30 years in Haywards Heath. Pic Steve Robards SUS-141216-142113001

Charity shop workers celebrated 30 years of ‘making a difference to the benefit of the world’ at a store which has raised £3 million for charity.

Past and present employees of Oxfam on South Road, Haywards Heath looked back at three decades of serving the less fortunate.

Diana Williams was the shop leader when it opened in 1984.

She said: “There was no till, they had to write everything down. I think it was the first charity shop in Haywards Heath, now there are nine or ten.”

“The people in Haywards Heath are very generous, they always respond to appeals, it’s amazing we can sustain this many charity shops.”

Looking back over her time at Oxfam, one memory stood out to Diane in particular.

Diane said: “Just before Christmas one year there was a buggy left with a baby asleep in it by the till, it was getting a bit late and we suddenly realised there wasn’t anybody else in the shop!

“It was asleep but we were saying ‘what are we going to do with baby?’

“Luckily the mother came in saying ‘I thought my husband had her!’”

But in an environment filled with caring workers, the baby was in good hands.

“There were lots of people to look after her,” Diana added.

The shop has a wide range of volunteers, with ages ranging from 13-90.

“Young people come through to get themselves a job, they need experience, we have uni graduates, it helps with their confidence and helps Oxfam,” Diana said.

“We also have very regular donors and customers. It’s good that things don’t get chucked out, and nothing is wasted.”

The store has experienced many strange donations and requests over the years.

When they receive a box, they never know what might be inside.

One worker described how a donation of hand alarms caused a stir, as the whole box starting buzzing loudly, and employees struggled to prevent the din.

Diana continued: “Once we had a call at some un-Godly hour, about 6.30 in the morning.

“It was the police. We thought it was a break in, but they said ‘we need some shoes!’ Three villains needed some shoes because theirs had been sent to forensics, so we sold them some shoes!”

George Thacker joined as a volunteer in 2010, and is now deputy manager.

He said: “The shop has been a fixture of Haywards Heath for a long time, it’s a great team and the customers are nice. “It’s great to make a difference for the benefit of the world, in a healthy environment.”

Area manager Mike Parfitt explained that the Haywards Heath store is one of Oxfam’s finest.

“People in Haywards Heath are wonderful, they’re really generous,” he said.

“I wish it was a bigger shop with a bigger back room so we could take more donations, people here are incredibly generous.”