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Aberdare Heart Volunteer Thanked for Support

Julie Phillips, Roise Doherty and Deb Brookman with Rhodri Thomas

When she started volunteering at the BHF Cymru shop in Aberdare 12 years ago, Deb Brookman had no idea she’d end up needing treatment for a heart condition herself.

Every Wednesday afternoon Deb, 47, gives up her time to help at the shop where her mum Sheila Watkins had worked as an assistant manager until she retired, and where she now continues as a volunteer two mornings a week.

Deb helped on the shop floor, displaying donated items, and supporting customers keen to find a bargain, and now specialises in uploading prime donations on to that charity’s eBay page, taking photos and listing special features to help the charity raise as much money as possible to fund its lifesaving research.

Deb, from Abercwmboi, had been volunteering with the BHF for a decade when she found out she was living with a heart condition. She says, “I always felt a connection to the BHF because of family members who had heart problems, but in November 2020 I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation after my smart watch picked up that I had a low heart rate, and I went for a check-up. After some tests I was told that I needed a pacemaker.” Under local anaesthetic, Deb had a pacemaker fitted and says she’s enjoying life. “I don’t let it hold me back, I did a lot of research myself before I went for the operation because I’m interested in how it works, but I wasn’t worried. I trusted that the doctors would look after me, and I’m doing well.”

It’s given new meaning to Deb’s role in the shop. “It’s really special knowing that I’m helping raise as much money as possible to help fund future research into all sorts of heart conditions,” she says.

In Wales 340,000 people are living with heart and circulatory conditions. In the last 5 years [2017-2021], BHF Cymru has funded £9.5m worth of research in Welsh universities, supporting the work of 64 research staff.

Aberdare store manager Elaine Riley relies on her team of volunteers to ensure customers get the best experience when they visit the BHF shop at the heart of Commercial Street in the town. She says: “We’re so grateful to everyone who gives their time to volunteer with us, and we know our volunteers gain valuable skills and experience too. As well as providing crucial support to the BHF, volunteering can also provide great work experience, boost your CV, increase wellbeing and provide a social network within the local community.”

Head of BHF Cymru Rhodri Thomas visited the shop to thanks Deb and fellow volunteers Roise Doherty and Julie Phillips. He says: “It’s a real privilege to be able to thank our volunteers for their amazing contribution to the BHF. We have more than 30 shops across Wales, providing shoppers with the opportunity to find a bargain and support our pioneering research; and we rely on our fantastic family of volunteers to ensure they run smoothly and make the most of every generous donation we receive.”

Elaine is keen to encourage more people to volunteer in Aberdare, giving the gift of time in a number of vital roles. She says: “We’re asking those who can offer a few hours or possibly a couple of mornings or afternoons a week to come and join the team, meet people and learn some new skills. Volunteers can learn and develop a range of skills, from telephone and logistical administration and helping on the shop floor to sorting stock or even supporting Deb to research, photograph and list items for the BHF online shop. Behind the scenes there are also physical warehouse activities or specialist roles for those who want to channel their passion for books, vinyl records, fashion or electricals.”

There are also volunteer stock collection drivers, stock generators and volunteer recruiters who get out and about in the local area. These roles can provide transferrable skills for job applications and help with boosting confidence, while also helping the BHF raise funds for life saving research.

For more information head to: bhf.org.uk/volunteer or contact the shop directly on 01685 879137.