13 November 2023

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Frances’s story

Eighty-two year old makes friends, raises funds and finds a ‘twin’ in Orpington shop

Frances Dormer Volunteer Orpington

People of all ages volunteer for St Christopher’s, supporting us in a huge range of ways, motivated by a host of different reasons.

For Frances Dormer it started by chance. Now eight years on, Frances is driven by her own personal reasons and a deep love for what she’s become a part of. She and her daughter Belinda have also teamed up in a canny scheme to raise money for the hospice.

It started because Frances’s daughter-in-law is friends with someone in the fundraising team and they needed someone at a short notice to help out with the Bluebell Walk, so she stepped in.

“It was such good fun and everyone was so lovely and a pleasure to be with,” Frances says. “So, I then got involved with fun runs and fetes as well as events at Christmas.”

Then seven years ago Frances’s sister died.

“She was my best friend. We lived ten minutes apart and saw each other every single day. Nurses from St Christopher’s came and cared for her at home and they were so wonderful, making sure she was comfortable.”

Some of Frances’ fellow volunteers mentioned that the hospice’s shops were always looking for volunteers and thought she might enjoy it.

Sure enough, the retired secretary was quickly into her stride, sorting donations and hanging clothes, working three half days a week.

“I like to be busy and the camaraderie with the ladies is fantastic.”

It didn’t take Frances long to discover a coincidence with one of her shop colleagues.

“Sylvia and I soon realised we were both Taureans, as we’re both quite fiery, then we discovered we were both 82 and born on the same day.”

That makes for a double celebration and shop manager Gill provides the cake to celebrate the ‘twins’ birthday.

It was another kind of a party organised by Frances’s daughter Belinda that helped raise funds for St Christopher’s.

“Belinda organises children’s activities at The Walnuts Shopping Centre and when she visited her mother in the shop and saw a big influx of teddy bears she had an idea. As part of the shopping centre’s free summer events she planned a Teddy Bear Picnic for children to bring along their favourite teddy bear. If anyone “forgot” to bring a bear she had the idea that children could adopt one. She asked Gill if she could take the teddies from the shop, gave them badges and asked the children to give each one a name. 22 teddies found new homes, raising £60. The children loved it and every penny went to St Christopher’s which was great as we normally only charge 50p a teddy.”

Having been a widow since 1998, Frances loves keeping busy now her grandchildren are grown up too and would recommend volunteering to anyone.

“I would say to anyone to come and join us. It’s such a nice atmosphere, the customers are lovely, it’s a really nice thing to do and you’re supporting a wonderful organisation.”

Find the right volunteering opportunity for you and discover all the ways you can help us raise funds to continue to care for people like Frances’s sister.

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