Volunteering in a Charity Shop

While waiting to move I had to think of something to do to keep busy, but I hoped it would only be for a short time.  A charity shop seemed like a good idea.  There was a choice of 7 in M, where I was living, so I chose a charity I approved of (Cancer Research U.K.) and the shop that seemed to be busy most of the time.

This proved to be a very good idea.  It filled time, provided company and gave me a (temporary) role.  With the right manager it was also good fun.

I got an application form (all charity shops seem to need a form and references) at the start of September and started 10 days later.  I learned to do steaming  (“vertical ironing”, as described by the manager), “tagging” (putting the tags on the clothes, writing the sizes on the tags and hanging up the clothes with the appropriate size on the hanger) and had a go on the till, all on my first morning.  I was initially doing 2 half-days a week and quickly got the hang of all these skills!

Within a month, the manager, K, was phoning me up and asking if I could go in and do extra time.  As I was a fairly short walk away and had too much time on my hands, I usually said ‘yes’.

Near the start of November I started doing the weekly figures.  (This is no longer needed as the tills are now computerised and do it automatically.)  It was quite interesting as I could see how much was made each week, if we hit our targets, what were the best selling areas and which were the best days – usually dry and sunny ones!

Later in November, another volunteer and I were left in sole charge of the shop – first for an hour and later for a whole morning.  I also learned to sort the items that came in – those things that were saleable, those we could sell as “rags” and those which, sadly, had to be thrown away.  By December I had learned to open and close the shop; by the middle of January I could do the end of the day till and cash up and by the middle of February I was left in charge of the shop (with the help of other volunteers at their usual times).  This meant that in 5 months I was volunteer assistant manager – although I refused to be called by that name!  If I had been looking for a job it would have looked good on a C.V.

I think I was lucky to find a shop which needed volunteers who were flexible, when I had time to do this.  Perhaps also to find a manager who let me do all the tasks in the shop.  It was enjoyable and felt worthwhile.


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