After her husband died of cancer, Val Jones was looking for something useful to do.
So she opened a charity shop - in aid of Weston Park Hospital - in the shop below their flat in Shirecliffe, where Gordon used to be a butcher. Nine years later, Val has raised £100,000 for the hospital’s cancer charity, whose organisers describe her as “an inspiration”.
She was married to Gordon for 43 years, up to his death in 2001 from a very rare cancer of the appendix. “They thought he had a cyst on his bowel but his appendix burst so he had an immediate operation to clean it up and the cancer was discovered,” said Val, aged 75.
“He also ended up having to have three quarters of his bowel removed as the cancer had spread. Gordon had treatment at Weston Park Hospital but unfortunately he was given a terminal diagnosis and died 18 months after his surgery.
“It was a very distressing time and I tried to keep myself busy. We had a caravan in Skegness that Gordon and I loved going to, but it just wasn’t the same by myself. So by 2005 I was looking for a hobby and something useful to do with my time and keep me going.”
When she opened the charity shop, “Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity seemed to be the perfect fit”.
Val manages the Friends of Weston Park Hospital’s shop in Teynham Road, working with “a great team” of seven volunteers and relying on community donations.
“When I first opened I thought we would only have a few customers and I was looking forward to being able to sit down and read – nine years on and I haven’t read a book yet because we are so busy!
Charity director Samantha Kennedy said: “Val is a pillar of the community who has done so much over nine years, not only for the people of Shirecliffe, but also for Weston Park Hospital.”