Homelessness is terrible. We are not a poor country, we are not a third world county, yet there are all these homeless people on the streets. Many years ago, I took part in a rough sleeping count where I saw the situation first hand. Homelessness is the reason I started volunteering for Emmaus Bolton.

I began volunteering in 2020 when I heard about Emmaus from some of the people who were already helping here. I have always been interested in helping homeless people, but what I didn’t realise about Emmaus Bolton until I came here was that it provided accommodation for homeless people.

Emmaus Bolton is unique because you are volunteering alongside the people the charity supports. Realising these people are getting on and trying to improve their lives is what makes the experience even better. I admire these people a lot for getting on and trying to improve their lives and get back to normality.

I find everyone who lives and helps at the charity so lovely because they always make you feel as though you are needed; you are thanked for your help and you are appreciated.

Different volunteer opportunities

I started volunteering in the Scrap Store of recycled arts and craft materials and I really enjoyed that. I met supporters and some of the other volunteers there, and got on well with them, but I had to stop coming for a while to look after my daughter and her two children after she had a bad car accident.

When I came back there were lots of enthusiastic people in the Scrap Store. I would have loved to have volunteered in the café because I think it would be great to meet and talk to the people who come in. The fashion store recently got reorganised too, so it looks more like a shop, and there are opportunities there. Because of my work history within the NHS, it was suggested that I would be well suited to volunteering in the food bank, and I just love volunteering at Lucie’s Pantry.

I feel like I’m doing more. Not just helping people who have been homeless, but people in need in Bolton. Some people come here embarrassed, but I say that’s what Emmaus is here for – when we’re going through hard times. And some people are here because they can’t afford to live, full stop. One of the young men coming here was living in a tent. He had a portable stove and could only put boiling water onto things, so I was looking for dried foods that only need hot water for him to cook. We have fresh fruit and vegetables, and I try to think about the specific items that suit each person’s needs and work through it with them.

Everyone coming to Lucie’s Pantry needs a referral to come to the food bank, which is handled at the main shop. I have a list of the names and times people will visit. I wait until they come so I know what they want. Then we go through the shelves in order, starting with the cereals, then the next shelf and the next shelf. People bring their own bags to take things home.

Benefits of volunteering for Emmaus Bolton

I love talking to the people coming in. I always ask how they are. Volunteering works both ways. Speaking to people is good for me as well, as I live on my own. It does make me feel good. It’s about having that routine and knowing that I have got to get up to get to Emmaus Bolton by 10am. It makes me feel good.

To anyone thinking of volunteering, I’d say give it a go. Along with some great friends, I run a Friendship and Memory Café at the Barlow Centre on the first two Mondays of the month from 1-3pm. It sounds a bit dramatic, but if I didn’t do these things, I think I’d probably curl up and die. It’s about having something to do, meeting people and feeling like you’re doing something worthwhile for others as well.


To find out more about our volunteer opportunities and to apply, you can visit Emmaus Bolton’s Volunteer Page here.