Volunteers who run the charity Christmas card shop at Rye’s community centre met last week to catch up on news. It had been a particularly successful season, with takings exceeding those of the previous three years by 24 per cent.
Without the volunteers the shop would not open and it’s thanks to many of them doing a weekly stint at Arkwright’s till – the one that flies out and hits the unwary in the stomach in Open all hours – that Rye is able to have Christmas cards from more than 35 charities under one roof. We gained four new recruits this year – but still have only one regular man, plus the occasional helpful husband!
The volunteers are always interested to know which charities sold the most and the good news is that it was two local ones. The Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust regained its top slot, having been nudged off the previous year by a couple of national charities. Three new designs boosted its sales and with its stock running perilously low we’re all hoping to see the picturesque marshland churches in a new light next season. All we need is some snow so that photographers can get snapping.
Close on the trust’s heels came the Rye, Winchelsea and District Memorial Hospital. This was the first time their cards were sold in the shop and with only two designs – most charities have eight – it should have been hard going. Not in the least: Ann Hostler, in charge of fundraising, was up and down the hill between hospital and shop weekly ferrying us new supplies.
The Alzheimer’s Society topped sales among the nationals. Its “Partridge in a Pear Tree” knocked all other partridges – and there were quite a few – off their perch and helped increase the charity’s sales over last year by a third.
The partridges – and pooches doing anything – were definitely this season’s top dogs. There have to be losers, of course, and a card picturing a row of candles didn’t sell a single pack. If any charity card buyers should be reading this, modern Three Kings are fine, but modern Bethlehems are a definite no-no. And we never have enough stained glass or Old Masters – for which please include the name of the artist on the reverse.
We’re already thinking of other ways to build upon this past season’s success. One “first” was Dolly and Dillon, the Oliver Curd Trust dolphins, who joined Rex Swain, the Town Crier, to open the shop. The Salvation Army band should also have been there but cried off due to illness. We had to make do with CDs of their songs belting out from a car stereo. It wasn’t quite the same thing, so hopefully dolphins, the band, maybe a second choir if The Music Well can oblige – and hot drinks and home-made cakes – will get us off to a good start come November.
One thing we can help with ourselves, now, is to have more cards showing local scenes. Everyone asks for them, they all sell out, and we’re determined to increase the choice. The difficulty is in getting the right pictures to the charities in time. Cards for Good Causes – the organisation behind the shop – also sells its own cards to help cover the cost of running the shops and is keen for a local view.
So, while everyone else might be hoping for the mild weather to return, the card-shop team is looking out for a good dollop of the white stuff. Check in November to see if we were successful.
Illustration: Colin Bailey / Jane Nunn is manager of the charity card shop