In the second part of our series on fundraising for Bury Hospice, Mike Crutchley goes behind the scenes with the warehouse staff who are often referred to as the ‘hidden gems’ of Bury Hospice

Selling goods and furniture to raise vital funds for Bury Hospice is all in a day’s work for dedicated volunteers and staff – who see it as anything but work.

Their passion and enthusiasm take over as they explain what it means to be part of the hospice family that makes such a difference to terminally ill patients and their loved ones.

The hospice’s warehouse and furniture outlet occupy two industrial units at Phoenix Way, Radcliffe, tucked away behind Asda.

These Aladdin’s caves have everything from furniture, books, CDs and DVDs to electrical goods. There was even a mobility scooter and a chimney sweep’s brush among the thousands of items waiting to go to a good home.

The operation is overseen by manager John Thirkell, who has spent his career in warehouse management and logistics.

Mr Thirkell, who joined the hospice team six years ago, said: “When you go to the hospice and see the appreciation from people being cared for and their families, you know that is what we are doing it for.

“I had never worked for a charity before I came here, but now I wouldn’t swap it for anything else.

“When I was a warehouse manager, I was just a number, working long hours not seeing my family. This is such a different work environment. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

“I will never lose my appreciation of being part of Bury Hospice and feel lucky to have this role.”

Because of his passion for the role, Mr Thirkell’s philosophy is to make money out of every single item that is donated to the hospice.

He and his seven staff are backed up by an army of 40 volunteers who are equally passionate about what they are doing.

Mr Thirkell said: “We have a team of volunteers who are here because they want to be and they know what they do means so much. We just need more help and would love to hear from anyone who would like to join the team.

As well as furniture, they process hundreds of bags filled with donations each week – and the warehouses are bursting at the seams.

Mr Thirkell said: “We are never short of donations. We have got one of the best collection services locally and our turnaround is five days.

“Unfortunately we do get things which we can’t sell and have to go to the tip which costs us in fuel and valuable drivers and volunteer time.

“We cannot sell any furniture that has had the fire label removed and I know people are well meaning, but anything they are donating has to be in a condition that they would want to buy themselves.”

When Mr Thirkell joined, the hospice had one warehouse which was half storage, half retail. But as donations flooded in, a second unit was needed. And recently an additional furniture shop in Radcliffe town centre has been opened.

The warehouse supplies the hospice’s seven shops with daily deliveries.

They cut down on waste wherever possible and try to make use of everything, from TV and satellite remote controls to odd cups and saucers which are sold through Falshaw’s Farm Shop off Walmersley Road.

Furniture manager Michael Fyles also feels part of the hospice family and loves coming to work every day.

He first became a hospice volunteer 17 years ago and after a career including sales, insurance and the police, he became one of the warehouse collection drivers.

He moved up to assistant manager until his recent promotion to manager.

He said: “It is a great big family. The staff do not see it as a job and we get volunteers who keep coming back. It is a very humourous place."

Samantha Duncan, head of trading and volunteer services, said: “The retail arm of the hospice brings in 28 per cent of our annual revenue and this is down to the dedication and hard work of staff and volunteers across all our shops - they really are hidden gems.

“They say that it is the people that make the place and that is definitely the case with our fantastic team.”