Hi, my name is Eileen, I live in Hove and l confess that I simply love charity shops!
There, I’ve said it… And with more than a dozen charity shops in George Street and Blatchington Road in Hove alone, I really am spoilt for choice. There is something quite exciting having a hunt through a charity shop for those hidden bargains. I love finding things that someone else has given away that’s perfect for me!
But for me, there has always been one shop that stands out above the rest. It’s the Martlets shop in Blatchington Road, Hove – or ‘Blatch’, as it is affectionately known.
Why I started volunteering
I took early retirement back in October last year. Now finding I have a few hours to spare, I ventured in to ask if I could volunteer. I filled in a short questionnaire online and was contacted by Bill, the shop manager, and Verity, the assistant manager, to come in for a taster session. This gave me the chance to see what was involved.
So with a little trepidation, not having worked in a shop for some forty years, I spent a lovely Monday afternoon being shown what was involved by the staff and volunteers alike. Each of them were so friendly and happy to show me the ropes, I need not have worried.
A great choice of tasks
My first task was to help take donations in from a steady stream of visitors. Being post-Christmas, the majority of bags contained unwanted or ‘grown out of’ toys. There was of course, a multitude of clothes too. Thankfully, some of the customers had already signed up to Gift Aid; those donations attract an extra amount as charities can claim an extra 25p for every £1 you give. It will not cost you any extra if you are a UK tax payer but really makes a difference to the charity.
I then met David, one of the 30 odd volunteers currently working in ‘Blatch’, who devotes himself to sorting out all the clothing and hanging it up on ready for tagging. David – who is 69 this year – is a seasoned volunteer and really enjoys his time helping out in the back of the shop. He also makes a cracking cuppa! Annie – a bubbly and friendly long term worker with years of experience at the shop, is an expert on the tills, and Jane, a newcomer like myself, enjoys tidying the shop and making sure all the items are in the right place and priced up.
For me, having spent the last five years as an office manager for an international charity, I was more than happy to be customer facing. I was shown how to use the computer for registering gift aid donations. I soon progressed to tagging clothes that have come in for sale.
Time flies by
I must confess that I simply had no idea what was involved behind the scenes. So many items are donated on a daily basis, and there is much to be done before items are added to the shop. It certainly keeps me busy sorting and tagging clothes ready to be priced. Much of the sorting is done on site and some donations are then bagged ready to go to the warehouse to be distributed elsewhere.
The Hove shop has recently undergone a renovation. Bill is rightly proud of keeping the shop tidy and well presented. Every item has a specific place. I really enjoyed stacking up the racks and shelves with newly-priced items, and making sure all the items were in the right place.
The time simply flew by and I had loved every moment. I was truly hooked and delighted to be asked to join the volunteers for four hours a week.
Every volunteer who helps has their own reason for helping with Martlets. For some it is a great social activity or for others a way to keep busy. Some have been closely involved with the Hospice and have had friends or family receive the care there.
For me, I always wanted to give something back to Martlets. My beloved triplet sister, Vivvy, spent the last few weeks of her life at the hospice some eleven years back. She was treated with the utmost care and all of us were so touched with the kindness and love of the staff. It really did transform those last few days we had with her.
Volunteering my time makes a difference
Whatever time can be given really does make a difference. And age doesn’t matter. There are a few volunteers still at school who help out at weekends, which gives them a great grounding on customer service and an important skill to add to their CV. Verity, our lovely young assistant manager, first got involved through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and has now become one of the paid staff in the Hove shop.
So whatever your age and background, do spare a moment to consider volunteering for Martlets. There are still some time slots at Hove on Thursday and Friday afternoons. They also need help on weekends, where YOU could be involved too.
I hope you will consider joining, just like I have! Eileen