I’m originally from Bolton but I’ve lived in Wigan for more than 20 years. You will find me knee deep in the bric-a-brac sorting room when I’m volunteering for Emmaus Bolton, where many a treasure can be found.
I first got involved at Emmaus Bolton in 2019, not long after my mum had passed away. I met my sister at Café Pierre for some lunch and a look around, and I was in awe of the whole place. It had some fantastic gems, whether it was furniture or bric-a-brac. I fell in love. I knew I wanted to be part of the craziness of the people and the surroundings.
My biggest satisfaction as a volunteer at Emmaus Bolton is definitely all the people who work there, as I know them now quite well. We can have such a great laugh. It’s a real pleasure going to work and not a chore. I do consider myself as an employee as far as my commitment and work ethics.
While it is about giving back, volunteering is also selfishly about giving me something. It’s about finding that place where I fit in. It gives me a sense of purpose.
I adore children, and to be able to sort a small toy among the bric-a-brac that they can have for a pound or less, that’s just joyous; to do this for families who don’t have a great deal.
As a volunteer, I have time to build a rapport with regular customers and I like talking to the people who deal in second-hand items, who come in to flip things.
I had been volunteering for GMCA (Greater Manchester Combined Authority) as an Independent Custody Visitor for six years but as this was only around 4-5 visits a quarter, I knew I had the time to offer to Emmaus as a volunteer (if they wanted me).
I was a national service manager for Remploy, working with the then 15 people in a region, supporting people with learning disabilities to access employment. I worked with millions of other organisations, as a lot of individuals I worked with were sofa surfing, were homeless and some had drug or alcohol issues. I found people couldn’t focus on something unless things were stable at home first.
I’m familiar with some of the issues people supported here (we know as ‘companions’) may have faced. People here are great. I’m always greeted with a smile.
My husband also deals in second-hand items and I’m used to coming home and finding things he’s bought. One day I came back and found an organ sitting in the garage. You can imagine I wasn’t impressed. We’ve both been on the TV show ‘Flog It’ because of our backgrounds. Me with Butlin’s button badges and he was on separately with some antique postcards he’d found.
Volunteering is a fantastic stepping stone into employment. You are able to develop skills by making informed choices and decisions, and communicate with such a wide variety of people.
For individuals who aren’t sure whether they can volunteer, for a health reason for instance, try it for as little or as long as you want. We’re patient here and there are lots of different roles to suit different personalities. There’s something for everyone here.
My advice to others thinking about becoming a volunteer is just do it. Volunteering gives you so much back in return and I have made so many friends. OK, I may not be paid the salary I had been used to when I was employed or receive the healthcare insurance I had used, but it gives you everything you need from undertaking a role which is treated as serious as it warrants. You certainly feel welcomed and included here at Emmaus Bolton.
Since retiring early (a blessing I know), I have gained so much from my experience volunteering for Emmaus Bolton. I didn’t necessarily appreciate the stories behind the individuals who live there and their reasons for being there. Here, I have a sense of purpose and belonging that is so important, and I know I can go to them with any challenges I may be having in my daily life. I feel like I am the fortunate one to have found Emmaus Bolton.
To find out more about volunteering and for how to apply, please visit Emmaus Bolton’s volunteer page here.