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89-year-old charity shop manager ‘forced’ to retire as Aberdeen store to close

Morag Harp, who turns 90 in April, has been manager of the Salvation Army shop on John Street for the past 20 years.

Morag Harp standing.
Morag Harp is being forced to retire as a result of the charity shop shutting down.

The 89-year-old manager of an Aberdeen charity shop will be “forced into retirement” when it closes next week.

Morag Harp – who turns 90 on April 6 – hoped to still be working at the Salvation Army’s Aberdeen Citadel store on the city’s John Street to celebrate her milestone birthday.

However, this plan was put to bed when it was announced that the store would be closing down while she was in hospital a couple of months ago.

Outside of the Salvation Charity shop in Aberdeen.
The Aberdeen charity shop will close next week. Image: DC Thomson

Mrs Harp, who has been its manager for the past 20 years, had a 50-year career as a nurse prior to taking on this role.

“20 years and that’s it – I’ll have to retire,” she told The P&J.

The pensioner is the only paid staff member at the charity shop, working alongside five to six volunteers, including Liz Bruce who said: “She would have still been here until her dying day.”

Salvation Army shop has ‘helped those in need’

Discussing why she still works at the age of 89, Mrs Harp said she enjoys “helping people”.

She explained: “A lot of people come for help and they get it, it’s all we can do.

“I’m just quite sad about having to give it up, because I’ve really enjoyed it and the amount of people that come in to chat.

“I don’t care if they buy or they don’t buy, you feel you’re doing something to help humanity.”

Morag Harp and Liz Bruce standing.
Mrs Harp with volunteer Liz Bruce. Image: DC Thomson

Salvation Army store will close due to ‘expensive’ repairs

The charity shop, which is based off of George Street in Aberdeen city centre, was once described as a “treasure trove”.

However Mrs Harp feels its now a shell of its former self, with things being moved around when she was in hospital.

In the past they sold furniture, however The P&J was told this was stopped by the Salvation Army due to the moving van being “very expensive” to run.

Despite doing a “good trade”, Mrs Harp said charity bosses told her the justification for closing the branch was due to an “expensive” leak in the roof.

However, she thinks this is “an excuse”.

She also disagrees with the plan of transferring the shop’s remaining items to other Salvation Army shops across the UK instead of donating them to individuals and families across the north-east during a cost-of-living crisis.

Fraser Hodgson and Morag Harp standing.
Fraser Hodgson, pictured here with Mrs Harp, is a volunteer at the charity shop.

Like her colleagues, volunteer Mrs Bruce is sad to see the shop go, saying she is “stressed out” by what is happening.

“I came out in shingles after all this, despite never having them before,” she said.

Describing the charity shop as her second home and her colleagues as being like family, she added: “People are going to come next Thursday and Friday and we’re not going to be here to help anybody.

“People just come in for the company, it will be sad.”

Inside Salvation Army charity shop in Aberdeen.
The shop has been described as a “treasure trove”.

When asked is anything will be arranged to mark the closure, Mrs Bruce told The P&J: “We were told, once you go, just shut the door.”

Audrey, a regular customer at the charity shop, said the situation is “terrible”.

She said: “A lot of people having been coming into this shop for years.

“I’ll stand outside that door with all the regular customers and I’ll tell them – ‘they’re not getting their stock, they can go somewhere else, this is our shop’.”

Outside of the Citadel in Aberdeen.
The future of the Salvation Army owned Aberdeen Citadel has been confirmed. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

Major Peter Renshaw leads The Salvation Army in Aberdeen and said the church and charity is still supporting the city.

He said: “We’re very sad to be closing our charity shop and would like to thank the dedicated staff and volunteers for their hard work as well as pass on our gratitude to everyone in Aberdeen who has supported the shop.

“We’ve made this difficult decision due to rising costs and will redirect our resources to our work elsewhere in the city, which includes our community hub and supporting people who are socially isolated.”

Despite rumours of the Salvation Army’s Citadel, located on Castlegate in Aberdeen, potentially closing too, a spokesman for the charity confirmed: “The Citadel will remain open and continue to provide services to the public.”

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