End of an era for Ripples Charity Shop.

It’s no bigger than a bus stop really but it happens to be one of Churchdown’s longest running stores.

I am referring to Ripples Charity shop on Brookfield road,it’s near the mini roundabout which is the junction for Paynes Pitch and Church road and I’m sure many of you have driven past it even if you’ve never had the chance to visit.

Unfortunately after 18 successful years volunteers Jill and Alan Flower have closed the door for the last time and now embark on a well earned retirement. Jill and Alan have been Churchdown residents since 1966 and have long been involved with fund raising for charity. Jill has utilised many local venues including Brown Lodge, the Community Centre and her local church from which to hold charity sales and events over the years.

However it wasn’t until the year 2000 that she managed to secure a permanent premises. St.Andrews Parish Church of which Jill and Alan are parishioners became the tenants of the little shop at No.3 Brookfield road in December of that year. A competition at St.Andrews was held to come up with the name of their new shop Jill entered anonymously and her entry was chosen as the winner.

As the name suggests “Ripples” spread out in a pool of water and it was hoped that the proceeds from the store would do just that and it did.

Jill finally now had a base from which to accept donations from the public which included clothing, ornaments, pictures, DVD’s, games etc. Displaying items for sale did become somewhat problematic due to the limited space available and as donated items poured in it proved a challenge for Jill to accommodate everything. She and the other volunteers ended up stacking things on top of one another and on nice days displaying their wares outside on the pavement.

Jill and Alan’s home soon became a makeshift warehouse for the donated items that simply wouldn’t fit inside the shop. Jill kept a detailed inventory (in her mind) of what was stored at the house should anyone require something that wasn’t on display. On one occasion a lady visited the store to enquire if any standard lamps were available,none were but later that day someone did actually donate one, Jill was able to contact the lady and turn around a very quick sale.

For many years Jill relied on local people generously giving up their time to help her run the shop, she never once had to ask for help. Volunteers came from the local community, St.Andrews Parish Church and Churchdown Methodist Church, roughly a third each on reflection and nobody took a wage.

In the early years Jill was able to open up five and a half days a week but as volunteers slowly became harder to come by that dwindled to three days. Pam Pickering whom Jill describes as her ” right hand man” was an ever present assistant, “she has often gone the extra mile to help out and has been very loyal”. Jill is grateful to husband Alan, to Pam and to all those who’ve helped her out over the past eighteen years and not forgetting everyone who has donated their items for selling. An expression of gratitude is also due to the Garness family and in particular Anthony from whom they have rented Ripples from, he has been very supportive over their tenure.

The shop itself has quite a history.Built in 1896 for the Garness family as firstly a butchers it has subsequently been everything from a fish and chip shop in the 1930’s to being requisitioned by the ARP for a battery and lamp store during WW2.From the 1950’s onwards it has been a confectionery store, a ladies hairdresser in the 60’s and from 1976 a Mr.Denis Tutty and his daughter Janice took over and the Mini fruit and flower market developed into a very profitable business which eventually moved to a premises on Blacksmith Lane. Thanks goes to Anthony Garness for the dates and occupancy of the building.

Jill is modest when it comes to the sums of money that Ripples has raised over its time but many of the funds went to the St.Andrews mission committee where it was subsequently divided up between its good causes. Beneficiaries over the eighteen years have been many and here are some of them. ‘World Vision‘ which provide emergency shelters, food, vaccinations and water pumping stations amongst many other much needed services to third world countries, ‘Listening Post‘ which gives advice and moral support to people, ‘Teens In Crises‘ which is local to Churchdown and ‘Emmaus Gloucester‘ who provide lodgings and retraining for adults experiencing hard times. They were also able to donate £1000 very promptly to the Japan Tsunami emergency fund as well as other natural disaster relief efforts. The local Methodist Church have also donated to their charities using some of the proceeds from Ripples and in return they provided volunteers for the shop.

Aswell as being an important contributor to good causes Jill also wanted the store to be a place where people could come to chat. As she says, “If someone came in feeling a bit low I hoped that when they left they’d feel a bit happier“. I imagine that there were many times when Jill acted as a confident when she felt the need to, it really was a unique shop in that sense.

Unfortunately over recent months Jill has endured a few health problems and as her and husband Alan are both in their 80’s they feel they can no longer devote the time and energy to running such a project, infact I can’t convey the commitment that they have shown and the amount of work that they’ve had to put in to making Ripples (which always remained independent) such a success.

They and everyone involved deserve a big pat on the back in recognition of their fund raising efforts. Ripples may only have been the smallest of shops but it had a very big heart, it has been a stalwart of our community and it will be missed by all those who frequented, purchased and benefited from their existence.