Meet Tony Donaghy, our housekeeping team’s first regular volunteer.

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This year has been a very busy one for us at Minsteracres and at times the housekeeping team has been hard pressed to keep up with the work that having two houses full of visitors demands. To give them a hand we put out an SOS asking for volunteers and have had help from a few over the year, but Tony is the first to commit to a regular two days a week and housekeeping supervisor Maggie is very grateful!

Tony says his first mistake was to pick up the church bulletin at St Patrick’s in Consett about our open day. “I came up, got chatting with volunteer coordinator Jean Haldane about volunteering – my second mistake,” he says.

“I told her I’d just retired and was looking for somewhere to volunteer and that was my third mistake!”

The mistakes kept happening. “I had been up to church at Minsteracres and could see Sister Cecilia had a glint in her eye. She was obviously thinking, ‘there’s a bit more work in him!’. I escaped that time but she caught me again later.”

Tony is obviously not a man who has sat on his hands. He was a district councillor for many years, chair of Derwentside District Council and a ward councillor for about 14 years as well as a member of labour party and a trade union man.

He worked in victim support and Derwentside domestic forum, at one time organising for a shipping container to store furniture for women escaping domestic violence. “One woman came to me in tears thanking me for saving her belongings and giving her something to start again.”

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Tony had thought he would volunteer for outdoor work, but then decided to do indoors instead. “I do two days a week – it’s a happy balance,” he says. “It’s no hardship – there’s plenty time for other hobbies outside.

“Retirement isn’t what I expected.  It sneaks up on you start thinking what am I going to do?  Days blend together and you need to get out. It keeps you going, keeps your mind and body active. You’re not sitting in the house wondering what to do.

“It would suit a lot of retired people if they knew about it,” he says.

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“It’s a good working atmosphere – you do what you’re told.” The quip sums up the working relationship with the team, and particularly with Maggie. It’s clear there is great affection between them all.

“It’s a nice place. If you’re going to volunteer you couldn’t ask for a nicer setting, doing a worthwhile job.”