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‘End of an era’ — Harold Wood Rainbow Trust charity shop closes its doors for good after 28 years

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 August 2020

The Rainbow Trust shop in Harold Wood is closing after 28 years, with its last day of trading on Friday August14. Pictured L-R: Maggie Morten, Dawn Cocker and Pauline Obee MBE, alongside a wellwisher dropping off a donation. Picture: Pauline Obee MBE

The Rainbow Trust shop in Harold Wood is closing after 28 years, with its last day of trading on Friday August14. Pictured L-R: Maggie Morten, Dawn Cocker and Pauline Obee MBE, alongside a wellwisher dropping off a donation. Picture: Pauline Obee MBE

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The Rainbow Trust charity shop has been part of the Harold Wood furniture for 28 years. Following the sad news that it has closed its doors for the final time, The Recorder caught up with long-time volunteer Pauline Obee, who opened the shop almost 30 years ago.

Pauline — who received an MBE in 2014 for her services to charity — says that the decision to close was safety-based, rather than financial.

All proceeds went to supporting local families who have children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses.

It has always been profitable, for the simple reason that “we didn’t have anyone who was paid — it was all volunteers”.

Pauline had planned to reopen in September in line with the easing lockdown, but explains that the shop’s small size made it impossible to guarantee adequate social-distancing.

And with many of the shop’s 28 staff volunteers over the age of 70, the safety concerns became too difficult to overcome.

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“The age of the volunteers didn’t matter in the past, but sadly it does now,” she said.

Pauline reflects on what the shop meant to the community: “Harold Wood is a very small area; we became its hub. When the hospital was open, people would come in before visiting their family or friends, and nurses would buy things for the bedsits they lived in at the hospital.

“When it closed, we welcomed in a different kind of customer. Over the last few years, a lot of the men working on Crossrail would come in to buy clothes that they could quickly throw away. Often, a lot of our customers just loved coming in to have a chat.”

As she succinctly puts it: “The clientele changed over the years, but the spirit always stayed the same.”

And although Harold Wood will feel the loss of the shop’s closure, Pauline is adamant its presence will still be felt: “We are not deserting the Rainbow Trust — if the opportunity comes up to have a stall at Christmas, we absolutely will.”

Pauline’s one regret is that the volunteers didn’t the chance to say goodbye: “We would’ve liked to have had a farewell dinner or something, but hopefully we’ll be able to in the future.”

No doubt they’ll get that chance. After all, the “Aladdin’s cave” of Harold Wood deserves a proper send-off.


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