96-year-old Grace reflect on WW2 service and a lifetime of helping others

published on 14 Sep 2017

Grace Friar has been a volunteer at the Salvation Army’s Harvestfield Furniture Recycling Project in Berwick since 2012. She began doing voluntary work in 1950 after helping injured servicemen during the Second World War.

A 96-year-old Berwick woman reckons the secret to long life is helping others.

Grace Friar volunteers at the Salvation Army’s furniture and charity project where she spends four days a week preparing clothes for sale.

The pensioner has been an ever-present part of the Harvestfield warehouse since it opened on Marrtree Business Park in 2012.

Grace has spent almost 70 years doing voluntary work for organisations such as the Salvation Army and the British Legion – and her dedication was recognised last month with a lifetime achievement award from the North Northumberland Voluntary Forum.

She was overwhelmed with the recognition but says helping other people has been a labour of love.

“Being there for people and making a difference in their lives gives me a sense of tranquillity,” says Grace.

“I’m very much blessed to be part of the Salvation Army in Berwick. It plays an important role in the community and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I’m part of that.

Harvestfield project manager Jessie Watson paid tribute to Grace as an inspiration to staff, volunteers and customers.

Jessie said: “Grace is an amazing woman and truly one of a kind. She embodies what the Salvation Army is all about – putting others first.

“Everyone who comes into contact with Grace learns something from her. She’s an inspiration to the other volunteers as well as the staff and customers.

“Grace has a background in textiles so she’s at home sorting the clothes and making alterations. We recycle half a tonne of clothing each week and Grace is very much at the heart of that. She just gets on with the job and never asks for help.”

Grace, who has lived in Berwick all her life, revealed her passion to help other people was sparked during her time serving in a Second World War naval hospital.

Grace said: “I joined the Women's Royal Naval Service in 1940. I had just turned 18 and was stationed at hospital, which ended up having a lasting impact on me. In 1950 I began doing voluntary work in the spare time from my job as a furniture upholsterer.

“I felt I had to do something to help other people. Later in my life I ended up looking after my mum and then my sister. I never complained though because I had a heart for it.”

Grace is an adherent member of the Salvation Army in Berwick and recalled her earliest memory of the church and charity.

She said: “During my time as a Wren I had to transport a patient home to Derby. There was an air raid and the Salvation Army took us in and looked after us. The kindness and compassion we were shown really stuck with me.

“After my husband John died I went along to a coffee morning at the Salvation Army community church in Berwick. They were short of staff so I volunteered to help out. I felt so at home and eventually became an adherent member. That was 12 years ago and I still attend worship there every Sunday.”