I used to go to Emmaus Bolton to visit the café and have a look round. Then for a few years I ran a luncheon club at our church and anything worthwhile that was left over I would take to the Emmaus community. Everyone was always excited to see what I had brought. They loved the desserts more than they loved the main courses. That was my fist involvement with Emmaus and realising how much they appreciated what I gave them was wonderful.

I’d always thought I could volunteer at Emmaus but then when my husband died in 2019, I really thought this is something I could do. The week after he died, I was in the shop and they automatically asked how my husband was, so I told them he had died and they were very sympathetic and kind. After that I just kept going back. I felt drawn to go back, they were such a nice crowd. I really felt I wanted to give back something to the community, so I started to volunteer one afternoon a week. I love it. Apart from going to church, it is the highlight of my week.

My volunteer role

When we’re not in lockdown I spend between three and four hours volunteering at Emmaus each week. I unwrap and sort the stock for the shops and generally help out.

My biggest satisfaction from volunteering at Emmaus is helping the people that come into the shops. Being able to help them and get talking to them is wonderful. They often end up buying more than they came in for!

I haven’t been volunteering during lockdown, but I’ve really missed it. I’ve missed the companionship and the laughter. I can’t wait to get back.

Being part Emmaus

It has been interesting chatting to the people who live at the Emmaus Bolton community and discover what put them in the position to need Emmaus. It’s great to discover the satisfaction that they find in being at Emmaus.

When they first come to Emmaus, companions tend to be a little quiet and withdrawn and it is wonderful to see them coming out of their shell and thinking ‘I’ve got a place and I can be proud of this place’. They discover that service to others is important too.

Some of them tease one another something rotten and I look at them sometimes and I think ‘did they mean that or didn’t they?’ but it’s good to see that they can get on alongside one another and have a laugh or a joke. The atmosphere at Emmaus is good. The people seem to get on okay together and a really good community spirit exists there.

I was hugely impressed with Emmaus in the first lockdown because they didn’t sit there thinking ‘oh we’ve got nothing to do until lockdown is finished’. I went into a fresh-looking building. They’d all been working together and had rewired the place, reorganised and redecorated. It had gone from its fuddy-duddy old-army-barracks look, to something bright and welcoming. People were coming in and saying ‘oh, isn’t this lovely’. It’s another sense that they’ve put something good into Emmaus.

Why should you volunteer?

My advice to people thinking of volunteering at Emmaus would be ‘do it!’. It’s really worth your time and gives a great deal of satisfaction. I don’t know how to express the feeling of how worthwhile it is. I mean, I’ve never been in the position of the people who are living in Emmaus but even I feel I am giving something back. I’m giving something back for the help that I’ve received, certainly. I wouldn’t tell the boys, but I am missing them. I feel like in some small way I am part of the Emmaus community.