When Julia Stevenson’s youngest child went to school, she found herself at her Feeny home outside Dungiven with a little more time on her hands.
Eager to do something useful, she approached ‘Friends of the Red Cross’ to see how she could help.
Four decades later, and the “young at heart” 80-year-old went on to play a huge part in the Red Cross in Derry, becoming a lifelong friend.
From the first time she helped with Meals on Wheels in 1978 in the Waterside Hospital, to becoming centre organiser in 1985, the fresh faced Oxford native never looked back. With the hard working team involved in the Red Cross in the city, Julia organised countless fundraising activities, travelled the length and breadth of the community and worked in the Red Cross shop.
While she has taken a step back from volunteering, Julia, who was awarded the Red Cross badge of Honour, says her years spent helping the Red Cross were a privilege.
“It meant I was being helpful because we were helping people, especially in the shop, who couldn’t afford to buy things but we could help. All the stock is of the highest quality They are not cast offs,” she said. “I loved going out and meeting people from being in the shop to those in the community.”
Over the years, Julia has helped with programmes and activities including the Gransha Visiting Service, the Red Cross shop, deaf aid, craft classes and fashion shows and Meals on Wheels. She is also proud of the fact the present shop in The Diamond, which opened in September 1990, has been one of the Red Cross’ best performing shops across the UK over the past 20 years.
Chuffed to be opening the newly refurbished shop yesterday, Julia encouraged anyone with an hour or two to spare to get involved in volunteering of any kind.
“I would tell people they would just love it, that it provides great friendship and you feel like you are giving of your time. It’s lovely and gives you another dimension to your life.”
She added: “The Red Cross is extremely important, and of course there are many good charities out there, but the Red Cross goes back so far. It was and still is a great help and opens its doors wide to everyone. Anyone who has worked for the Red Cross will be very happy they did and I am delighted I was given the opportunity.”