After 55 years, the Shrewsbury Charity Christmas Card Shop is still supporting good causes across the region, as Daniel Morris discovers.
This year, a well-loved charitable enterprise has celebrated a tremendous 55 years of supporting good causes during the festive season.
Set up in the town’s St Mary’s Church, the Shrewsbury Charity Christmas Card Shop opened its doors for this year in October, and has spent a seven-week run retailing cards and calendars on behalf of 34 charities – a mix of local and national causes.
Though it has been beloved by the town for decades, this is the first time the card shop has been open for such a long stint, and organisers have been pleased at the public’s support despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
“Because of the state of play in the UK at the moment, we expected things to be slower, and they have been,” said secretary Christine Sower. “But we’ve encouraged the charities involved to publicise the shop on social media as much as they can, and takings have been quite good. A lot of people are still coming in.”
Charities supported by the card shop have included a breadth of well-known good causes based right here in the county, including Severn Hospice, Hope House Children’s Hospices, The League of Friends of The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, and Lingen Davies Cancer Fund. Over the last two years, cards from the National Trust have also been available to purchase.
“We support the bigger charities like RNLI and the Air Ambulance by selling their cards,” said Christine. “But then we also love to help the smaller charities like the Shropshire Deaf Children’s Society. The little charities may not sell as many cards, but they like to have a profile and it’s great to be able to help people get to know about them.”
Christine herself has been involved in the running of the card shop for quite some time. “Well, I’ve not been here for 55 years,” she laughs. “But I have been on the committee for about 11 – I’m its longest serving member. When it first got started I believe it was just a group of ladies who decided, ‘well this is something we can do’, and for a long time the venue each year used to change. It never used to have a permanent base like we’ve got now. It’s been at St Mary’s since before my time though, and now people know that we’re there each year. We have customers who come from far and wide – from places like Aberystwyth and Birmingham – not just Shropshire.”
Christine and the rest of the organisers nobly attempt to run the card shop each year on a very tight budget, though this year sponsorship was gratefully received from Shrewsbury businesses Morris & Co and Hatfields Jaguar Land Rover. “They each donated £500 to help us which was wonderful,” said Christine. “£1,000 towards our admin costs, insurance and the rent of the church was really appreciated.”
The card shop’s workforce is comprised entirely of unpaid volunteers – the five committee members including Christine and chairman Peter Long, plus volunteers supplied by the represented charities. “For each day in the shop, we have a morning session and an afternoon session, each staffed by four volunteers and a supervisor,” said Christine. “It really is a lot of fun, and there’s such a good atmosphere between everyone.
“Whenever I hear people say they’re lonely, I say, ‘why don’t you do some charitable work?’. We have some lovely people down at the card shop. It’s a very friendly family.”
Though Christine suspects there is no record of the card shop’s total takings over the last 55 years, its annual figures in recent times have been impressive. “Before Covid hit we were getting up to between £50,000-£60,000 each year across the six weeks we were open,” Christine said. The pandemic naturally had an impact, and the cost-of-living crisis may have limited the public’s purchasing power, but Christine and her committee colleagues are proud to be doing what they’re doing, and have no intention of calling time on the card shop next year or any time soon.
“We’re still here,” she said. “So many things are disappearing from Shrewsbury, and from the world, but we aren’t planning to go anywhere.”
Here’s to another 55 years.
For information on volunteering at the Shrewsbury Charity Christmas Card Shop in 2023, email Christine at email@example.com