Gift boxes for supportive angels

A GIFT shop in St John’s has given hampers of goodies to local people helping others during the coronavirus pandemic – and is looking for support from the community to keep the scheme going.

The Angels Hampers initiative is being run by Claire Leigh from her Two Ducks shop. It started when she gave a hamper to Sarah McHugh, a friend and customer who is a Sister at St Peter’s Hospital and has been treating COVID-19 patients.

One of the Two Ducks’ Angel Hampers

Claire decided to make up a hamper of goodies and treats and delivered it to Sarah, who has to isolate herself from her family when she is at home.

“She is working long hours and can’t even be with her family when she’s at home, so I thought it would be a nice thing to give her a treat,” Claire said.

The suggestion had come up during a group chat with other customers and so Claire decided to ask for nominations of other “Angels”.

Claire Leigh, who has launched the Angels Hampers initiative

“Lists of names just poured in and so I made up some more boxes. I chatted with the people nominated to find out a bit more about them and so I was able to pick gifts most suitable for them.”

The hampers include items such as candles, bath products and cards with special messages.

One of the first to get a hamper was Paul Simmons of Simmons Family Butcher in St John’s.

“He has worked tirelessly and crazy hours to get meat to his customers, especially when people were stockpiling,” Claire said. She included a pair of socks with chickens on them.

 Other “Angels” have been Jo Harrup, headteacher of The Hermitage School who was nominated by many customers for her leadership skills during the crisis; Kim Neville, manager of the Cranstock Day Centre in St John’s who has kept the service going with a skeleton staff offering support to their most vulnerable customers; and Emma Turner, a mother of three who is also a carer for her parents and a key worker in a local school.

Kim Neville, manager of the Cranstock Day Centre in St John’s

Claire has been giving out two hampers a month with occasional extra ones to people she finds who are having a particularly bad time.

But she can’t afford to keep giving the hampers without support.

“So, we’ve set up a Just Giving page where customers can donate as much as they can afford. A hamper costs £20 and I received £90 in the first couple of weeks and so that paid for a few.”

Claire opened Two Ducks, which sells gifts, homeware and fashion, about six years ago. It won the Best Gift Shop and Best Women’s Clothing Store in Surrey categories in the Muddy Stiletto awards last year and was a finalist in the UK Retailer of the Year awards runs by the British Independent Retailers Association and the best Enterprising Business in the SME Surrey Awards.

Claire is still running the business online and making free deliveries every week in between home schooling her children Ellyn, 10, and Henry, 8, alongside her husband Nigel, who is a key worker for the MoD.

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