A case study from Hope House and Tŷ Gobaith, part of our #CharityShopVolunteersWales campaign in partnership with the Charity Retail Association
After retiring from a high-pressure job at an international business consultancy, Carol wanted to make some use of her spare time and started volunteering at the Hope House and Tŷ Gobaith shop in Llandudno.
‘I first came across the shop when I was moving and wanted to donate my children’s old toys which had been sitting in the loft,’ said Carol, 60. ‘I had never been in a charity shop before that, but as soon as I walked in the doors it felt right and I told the manager I would like to volunteer my time.’
She has been volunteering numerous mornings and afternoons every month since 2015, becoming a vital member of the team.
‘I love the variety of what I am able to do at the store. Be it working on the shop floor, handling and sorting stock, cashing up or supervising volunteers when paid staff are away,’ said Carol.
‘However, one thing which surprised me is how much I enjoy dealing with customers, which I didn’t think would be my thing at first. But I have really grown fond of it. We also get families and children who use the hospice come into the store, which really brings home what we are working towards.’
A BUSINESS WITHIN THE CHARITY
The volunteers are consulted with and work alongside store management on any changes or incentives that may be bought into place.
‘We all feel appreciated as volunteers and are very much part of a team, and our thoughts are heard, and suggestions are always listened to,’ said Carol. ‘One thing I didn’t realise, and many don’t, is how the charity shops almost act as a business within the charity.
‘We have targets and expectations, as with any retail business. We need to be successful as a business to make the money to help with the central cause of the charity.’
VITAL COMMUNITY HUBS
Chris Dinwoodie, head of HR and volunteering says that volunteers are a vital element to the retail side of the charity.
‘We couldn’t run our 14 shops without the passion, enthusiasm and ongoing commitment of our brilliant shop volunteers,’ he said.
‘They work tirelessly to help us to generate much needed income to run our two hospices and ensure that no one suffers the death of a child alone.
‘In our evolving digital and virtual world, our shop volunteers not only help to sort, price, tag, display and sell stock, but also have an essential role in taking the time to chat and interact with new and regular customers and in making them feel welcome in our shops and part of our local communities.’
He believes the shops act as vital community hubs for volunteers, something which is as important as ever.
‘The shops pull together a wide variety of local people from all kinds of backgrounds to work as one volunteering team with a common goal,’ he says.
‘This in turn helps to maintain social cohesion and local culture, tackles social isolation and keeps generations connected – where else in society would you see volunteers in their 80’s supporting teenagers who are having their first taste of working life in one of our shops.’
THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC
Covid-19 has been a challenge for the hospices and the retail operation, with all the stores having to close and reopen with a new way of working, including isolating donations for 72 hours, rearranging stores to allow for social distancing, and increasing an online presence.
‘While the pandemic has thrown up many challenges, I have been humbled by the determination of many of our Welsh volunteers to come back and support our Hope House and Tŷ Gobaith shops in North and Mid Wales.
‘Regrettably, some of our volunteers have been unable to return and we continue to search for some very special people who can spare a few hours a week to support our Covid-19 secure charity shops.
‘Why not call into your local Hope House and Tŷ Gobaith shop and talk to the manager about how you can help?’
This week (from 12 October 2020) WCVA in partnership with the Charity Retail Association will be sharing the stories of charity shop volunteers in Wales. Keep an eye on WCVA’s website and social media (where we’ll be using #CharityShopVolunteersWales) to hear about a range of different experiences from individuals volunteering in charity shops.
Volunteering during the pandemic should only be done with due care and consideration for the wellbeing of volunteers, staff and customers. You’ll find safeguarding guidance on our Covid-19 guidance and resources page. For information about limitations or considerations for local lockdowns in wales visit: gov.wales/local-lockdown.