A long-serving volunteer has spoken of his pride after being offered a job with the charity that cared for his mum in her final days.
Luke Porritt, originally from Roseworth, started volunteering in the Butterwick Hospice charity shop in Stockton after withdrawing from college.
“I didn’t have any confidence or any social skills,” Luke says, “and after leaving college partly because of that, I knew I had to find a way to pick myself up and find a sense of purpose.
“I visited a couple of charity shops in Stockton, but they didn’t feel like a good fit for me. Then I popped into the Butterwick shop, and I just got such a lovely feel from the place. I still struggled to interact with people then, so I got my mum to go in and get me an application form. I started the day after my 21st birthday.”
Celia, Luke’s mum, initially feared that the role would prove overwhelming for him, but to her surprise Luke enjoyed his time in the shop, and steadily grew more confident. He struck up friendships with fellow volunteers, and was taken under the wing of the shop’s manager, Wilma Hastie.
“At first it was a challenge,” Luke admits, “But Wilma and the other people were wonderful, we built some very strong friendships that were a big driving force for me, and they still are. It was also so inspiring meeting staff and customers from all different aspects of life.
“As soon as I went on a visit to the hospice and saw the incredible work they do, I thought ‘Oh geez, this is absolutely fantastic’, and after that, the memory of that visit kept me in the shop.”
Luke’s commitment to the Butterwick’s cause only grew stronger when Celia became terminally ill in 2011, and was admitted to the hospice as a day patient. She died shortly afterwards.
“I got to see the fantastic work the hospice does once again,” Luke said, “They helped her so much, and they looked after my dad, too, through counselling.” Now, 12 years after first setting foot in the shop, Luke has stepped up to take over the manager’s role following Wilma’s well-earned retirement in December 2019. “The footfall’s been really good since the start of the year,” Luke smiles, “Most people who come in love the Butterwick and want to help, but sometimes we get customers who don’t know much about what we do.
“Even these days, people still think a hospice is just somewhere for patients to pass on, when really it’s a hell of a lot more than that. We try to do everything we can to showcase the hospice and get the word out about what wonderful places they are as much as possible.”
Although she may have worried during her son’s early days in the charity retail market, there’s no doubt in Luke’s mind that his mum would be proud of his success. “Just being able to come into the shop and help, and stick to that routine, it kept me going when I lost her,” Luke adds. “It gave me a reason to get up in the morning and do something with myself.
“I’d encourage anyone who’s feeling a bit low and needing a sense of purpose to volunteer for a charity like Butterwick. It’s an amazing organisation.”
Anyone interested in volunteering their time to help Butterwick Hospice Care is asked to get in touch [email protected] or speak to our Voluntary Services Manager on 01642 607742.
Luke would like to remind everyone that the Butterwick Hospice Shop, located at 7, Stockton High Street, is open Monday to Saturday, selling a variety of high-quality pre-loved goods.