For most people, a trip to the charity shop is about getting a bargain and finding quirky items but for Declan (27) and Richard (36), YMCA’s Chelmsley Wood shop had much more in store than they ever could have imagined.
In 2015, Declan, who worked as an assistant shop manager at YMCA’s Chelmsley Wood store was starting his day and nothing seemed unusual.
Declan said: “The day I met Richard started just like a normal, busy day at the shop.
“I noticed he walked in and stopped before he even got to the till and he looked scared to approach me. When I looked at him, he asked if he could bring by some things to donate and as soon as I said ‘yes’, he left in a hurry.”
“I had seen Declan on a number of occasions doing window displays at the shop and also around the local town centre,” added Richard.
“That day I noticed him inside the shop and plucked up the courage to walk in. My nerves took hold and I don’t think I even made it to the counter when I asked the only question I could think of: ‘do you take any donations’. I smiled and hurried out of the shop and thought ‘finally we spoke’.”
Later that day, Richard found Declan on social media and they started talking. Keen to win over Declan, Richard visited the shop again bringing along a bag of donations alongside coffee and a cookie from the local coffee shop.
Richard said: “I did think I need to ask for a date because, with all of these donations, my wardrobe was getting smaller and I soon would have nothing to wear.”
After a few days, Richard finally got the courage to ask Declan out on a first date and Declan, who was close to cancelling due to nerves taking over, was assured by YMCA Chelmsley Wood’s shop manager to go along.
Having made the first date a success, many more followed and after about six months both Richard and Declan took out their mothers to ask for permission to get married. Unknown to Declan, Richard had a surprise up his sleeve. On 21 November 2015, he whisked Declan away to Paris for a surprise proposal, a week after the terror attacks in the romantic city which shocked the world.
Talking about the special moment, Declan said:”The proposal was very unexpected. Richard had planned the surprise trip to Paris for weeks. He took me to the Eiffel Tower’s second floor where he got on one knee and asked me to marry him.”
Richard said: “When Paris suffered a terrorist attack, it put the whole trip into jeopardy, but Declan’s sister gave me the courage to go ahead and proceed with the trip.”
To make sure YMCA continues to be part of their lives after the couple found love in one of their charity shops, Richard has become a volunteer and Declan still works for YMCA’s Chelmsley Wood store where he’s now the store manager.
Richard said: “YMCA has provided many people with help to achieve their goals in life, but I got so much more than I could have ever asked for.”
Declan added: “YMCA has played a massive part in my life and relationship.
“Without working at the shop I wouldn’t have the confidence I have now and I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be the man Richard fell in love with and, without YMCA, we may have never met. I’m still working at YMCA now and plan on doing so as long as I possibly can.”