Volunteering can give a sense of purpose.
We chat to Retail Volunteer, Julie:
Julie comes beaming into the Tiverton office for her weekly volunteer shift, as usual, with a smile and a friendly ‘hello’ before taking her seat at the hot-desk and logging onto the computer. For around 18 months now she’s been assisting CHSW’s Volunteer Advisor, for one morning a week, with the admin for the 650+ volunteers who help across the 30+ charity shops. It’s an enormous task that involves keeping all the volunteer records up to date and which she takes in her stride with a quiet confidence.
Each of our wonderful volunteers has unique story as to why they choose to be part of our volunteering family and Julie is no exception.
Volunteering in a word
When I ask her if there is a word that would describe her volunteering experience she unhesitatingly says ‘Rewarding’. ‘Recently retired, I had time on my hands but wanted to still do something and be useful. I’d got to a certain age and felt very fortunate that I have a good life but once I’d retired I didn’t want it to be ‘is that it?’. I didn’t want to be past being useful and volunteering gives me that sense of purpose - that I’m still useful and that my life experience can help benefit other people.’
She goes on to say that she’s always loved children. With grown up children of her own and 5 grandchildren, Julie felt she wanted to do something that helped other children. ‘And so, when I saw that CHSW needed help at the Tiverton office I got in touch.’
At 50 and after a successful career working long hours as a Production Director in the print industry, she and her husband decided to hand in their notices, buy a caravan and move to Devon. The wealth of life-experience that Julie brings with her is evident in her enthusiasm and motivation for giving her time. ‘I’m a people-person’ she says with a genuine smile.
A personal connection
'My sister in-law was a disabled and so I’ve seen first-hand how difficult life is when you are caring for a someone with disabilities. This was just one of the reasons that I wanted to volunteer with Children’s Hospice South West – it’s not the same situation as our own experience, but to know I can help other families is important.’
‘We were also foster parents for many years, to two disabled children, so we’ve experienced a lot of what it’s like and how hard it is. And now in another way, I like that I can still help other children by volunteering.’
I’m not tied into it, like I was at work, so I can spend time with my grandchildren and enjoy life the way I want to.
Joining the shop team
A year on from starting in the office, and hearing that the Tiverton shop were short of volunteers, Julie offered an afternoon a week volunteering at the shop too. ‘The two volunteer shifts I do couldn’t be more different. In the shop I do lots of very varied things; from being on the till, talking with customers, to restocking the shop and keeping it looking good. It’s important to me to keep active, both physically and mentally. I still feel I’ve got a lot to offer and still want to enjoy life! Volunteering gives me that sense of responsibility and usefulness and I know that I’m doing something but it’s flexible. I’m not tied into it, like I was at work, so I can spend time with my grandchildren and enjoy life the way I want to.’
Julie says that she was really surprised when she started how much there is to do to keep a shop running smoothly. ‘People see a nice-looking shop but don’t often think about how it gets to be like that and the enormous scale of what needs to be done behind the scenes. It takes a lot of volunteers, like me, who can all do our bit to help. A morning or an afternoon a week really helps. It’s great to be part of the team - doing something together.'
What would Julie say to someone who is thinking of volunteering?
‘I think lots of people feel that they’ll be committing themselves when volunteering, but that’s wrong. Volunteering is really flexible. You can do it to suit how you want to enjoy life and make it work for you. More than anything, just come and try it out!’