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Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association: Val Howson was the guest speaker at the November meeting of the YCA. Her subject was Running a Charity Shop. Val was born in Hunslet, her parents were both tailors and she was a regular attendee at Sunday School. There was a delighted ooh and smiles from the members when Val said she had been given a book at Sunday School for regular attendance and the book, which she still had, was Millie Molly Mandy. Almost all the ladies had happy memories of reading the book in their youth. When Val left school at the age of 15 she had two choices of a job, one in a tailoring factory or one in a shop. She invoked the envy of many of the members because at the age of 15 she got a job in Marshall and Snelgrove. Younger ladies will not have heard of this prestigious shop but it was the equivalent of Harvey Nichols with a uniformed doorman to open the door for customers. Her second job was in St Ann’s Shelter and housing centre. Then finally she became the manager of the Salvation Army, Care and Share centre in Meanwood. She has worked there for 17 years and she has been given and sold everything from a caravan to a sex toy. The aim of the shop is not to make a profit but to care for the people of Little London and Meanwood. She has a simple pricing strategy, anything above the waist costs £1.50 and anything below costs £2, coats are £5. She had many stories to tell about the people she has met through her job. She once had a funny little standard lamp for sale and a gentleman came in and bought it for a few pounds. A day or two later he came back, Val was worried the lamp was faulty, but no the gentleman told her about his time in the war working in Birmingham. He had been in the Fire service and had spent all day with his team clearing the bombed areas and there had been two Salvation Army ladies providing tea for them. The ladies had worked all day and night without a break and he said, he hadn’t paid for the tea so wanted to give Val £20 in appreciation. Another time the headmaster of William Shakespeare School had called in to give the shop boxes of new tee shirts and sweat shirts with the school emblem on them, the school had closed down and no longer needed them. These shirts finished up in Zambia in a very poor village where the children had very few clothes. They were delighted with the shirts and she had lovely photographs of the happy children sporting their William Shakespeare school shirts. Val finished her fascinating story by saying that during her years working in the charity shop she had found that the majority of people have a generosity of spirit and this is more important than anything else. The business continued after coffee. The Christmas dinner had been cancelled because of lack of support, it was decided to have a faith supper instead. Members were asked to bring a small amount of food each for a buffet supper. The subscription for the YCA will be increased next year to £12 this would help with the increase in capitation fees to county office. It was agreed to give the raffle money for 2012 to pay for the SIB hanging basket. Next year is the 30th anniversary of the YCA this will be celebrated with a dinner for all branch members on April 15 at York Racecourse. There will also be a service of thanksgiving on June 26 at York Minister.