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Volunteering joyride for big-hearted John

Despite only two-thirds of his ticker functioning after suffering a heart attack, John Mallabone remains as big-hearted as ever, spending the last four years volunteering for the Hospice as a van driver’s assistant.

Now the married 65-year-old is calling out to others looking for a new adventure to consider the possibilities the role can bring.

One of 120 different volunteering opportunities offered by St Oswald’s, van driver’s assistants – or driver’s mates - are essential in supporting our 28 charity shops; travelling all corners of the region to collect and deliver donations.  

Offering the chance to create new friendships and have fun, the energetic role is a great way of supporting St Oswald’s. Just one four-hour shift will help to cover the cost of specialist nursing provision for half a day; to care for adults, young people and children with life-limiting conditions.

John, who retired 10 years ago after nearly four decades working as a coffin and casket upholsterer said: “I’d popped into St Oswald’s Kingston Park Warehouse after admiring a neighbour’s lamp and saw a poster asking for van driver assistant volunteers. I thought it would be a great way of using my time for something useful and get me out of the house to meet new people.”

The great grandad, who lives at Etal Park estate, gives two days of his time to volunteer out on the road. He added: “I absolutely love it. Volunteering keeps me fit, and I get on well with the drivers. We have a laugh and meet lots of lovely people who have generously donated their unwanted items. The shop teams are friendly too.

“Driving around means we get to visit places all over the North East, which is something I love to do with the family so I enjoy it very much. Plus, my local knowledge helps us navigate the region which can be useful!”

The van driver’s assistant role, based out of our Kingston Park Warehouse is open to anyone aged 18 or over, with flexible half day or full day shifts available.

John said: “If anyone is thinking about how they can help their local community this Christmas, or as a New Year’s resolution, I highly recommend volunteering as a van driver’s assistant. You can socialise, see new places and support a worthwhile cause. It’s fantastic to be part of such an important team and you can easily fit it around your life.

 “St Oswald’s is a marvellous place, providing quality care to patients and their families at a time when they need it most and personally, I’m over the moon to help in any way.”

Retail area manager, Susan Freeman commented:  “Any time people can give, whenever they can, really makes a difference, be it a few hours a week, a day, or more and a retail volunteer role is incredibly fulfilling. There’s something for everyone, no matter your age, background or abilities. Whatever you need you will find, from new skills, friendships, confidence or simply a place to come to chat and have a laugh, we have it all and usually biscuits too.”

If you fancy a change of scene, start your journey to becoming a volunteer van driver’s assistant by contacting our Retail Helpdesk. Email retailhelpdesk@stoswaldsuk.org or call 0191 246 9071 to apply or sign up for a trial day.