AN urgent appeal for volunteers has been made by the UK's leading cancer charity.

Shop managers from Cancer Research UK’s North Wales stores have launched this appeal after seeing a massive drop in the number of supporters able to help out.

While stock donations increased immediately after lockdown, the number of volunteers returning plummeted by nearly half in some shops.

The situation has prompted a nationwide call for help as the charity battles to claw back millions of pounds in lost income due to Covid-19.

Last year, Cancer Research UK shops across Wales raised more than £3.2 million for life-saving research but with shop closures and event cancellations, the charity is expecting a staggering £160 million drop in income across the UK in the year ahead.

Ken Brant, manager at the Wrexham Cancer Research UK shop, said: "We’re very lucky to have a great team in Wrexham but sadly not all our volunteers have been able to return, largely due to health reasons.

"After the first lockdown eased, many shops were operating with only half the usual number of volunteers.

"The situation has improved a little since then but we’re still 30 per cent down on volunteer numbers, which is why we’re appealing to anyone who can to give the gift of their time this winter.

"Our shop volunteers are like family to us so it was heartbreaking to close our doors and stay at home during lockdown.

"I can’t stress enough how vital these volunteers are.

"Without their help, we simply would not be able to fund our outstanding doctors, nurses and scientists."

To help boost the recruitment appeal, the charity has enlisted the support of its event managers who have returned from furlough following the cancellation of more than 400 events including Race for Life across the UK.

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Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity currently funds around 50 per cent of all cancer research in the UK.

However, as a direct result of the pandemic, the charity expects to see its fundraising income decline by up to 30 per cent in the financial year ahead, which will put this research at risk.

Josephine Mewett, head of retail operations at Cancer Research UK, said: "The fight is on to continue our research to save lives and our amazing army of volunteers are right at the heart of our efforts.

"Covid-19 has slowed us down but we will never stop.

"Thanks to research, two in four people survive their cancer for at least 10 years and our ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, three in four people will survive their cancer.

"But the truth is that Covid-19 has hit us hard.

"With a devastating impact on our income, we’re making difficult decisions to reduce the scale and scope of our work.

"With around 19,200 people diagnosed with cancer every year in Wales, we’re determined to get back on track and our volunteers have been critical to that effort.

“When shops reopened at the end of June, our volunteers rolled up their sleeves to help us get back to business.

"However, many have not been able to return.

"So we now need almost 3,500 extra volunteers across the UK to come forward.

“We take their safety extremely seriously and we have strict Covid procedures in place to enable our shops to operate safely.

"That includes keeping anyone at risk at home, even if it means fewer volunteers in our stores."

Last year, Cancer Research UK spent nearly £5 million in Wales supporting life-saving research, helping to fund scientists working on clinical trials, earlier detection, personalised medicine and cancer prevention.

There are lots of different jobs people can help with in stores from sorting donated stock, steaming and labelling clothing to serving at the till.

Mr Mewett stated that no experience is necessary to apply to be a volunteer, individuals just need motivation and the desire to be part of a team.

To sign up or to find out more about volunteering, visit cancerresearchuk/shopvol.