My name is Jobie and I’m a retail volunteer at Emmaus Department Store. I guess you could describe my style as bohemian ex-punk rock chic, but you can’t really tell because we all wear uniform in store. There’s no power dressing here! We’re all the same.

I first found out about the Emmaus Department Store because I used to buy clothes from the store. One day I saw what was sitting in the stock room and thought I could do something with those, so I asked to volunteer.

I’m a support artist by day, so I have a fantastic wardrobe. A support artist is another word for background actor, and in 2021, for example, I was in Sherwood for BBC One as a wedding guest. I got the role based on a picture of the outfit that I planned to wear for the scene that I sent in, a bolero jacket that I got secondhand and a blue organza silk dress.

I’ve also been in the League of Gentleman Christmas Special as the ‘Cat Lady’, My outfit got the attention of the director because of the plastic rucksack I wore with a toy cat that you could see as we were filmed from the back.

Making a difference

I’ve been volunteering in retail with Emmaus since 2019. I like volunteering for Emmaus because the charity breathes new life into people, items and old buildings, it also keeps me sane! I thought, I could make a difference here.

My first impressions of the Emmaus Department Store were that it was such a vast place, with so much potential and so many rooms.

At the time there were no female companions, apart from two female support workers, and the first thing one of the companions, Liam, said to me was ‘can I carry your handbag for you’. What he didn’t know is that I always carry my shopping back to the car.

As a volunteer, you can really see the companions develop. I always say ‘welcome to the family’ when a new person arrives. I’m a people person and I like to help. I like to think I’ve a good ear and I listen to people. I can’t help financially, but I can give other people a bit of support in other ways.

Settling into working life here gives companions a focus and I’ve made some great friends. I still keep in touch with people who have progressed through the charity.

Instore ideas

My plans for the future are to create a boutique here, full of all the designer clothing we get and upmarket gear from Karen Millen, Marks & Spencer and Zara, for example. I enjoy doing seasonal window displays; we put on quite a show at Christmas time!

Things I’ve learned from volunteering with Emmaus are to be patient with the customers, keep an eye out for people coming into the store to buy things and communicate, not just with people on the shop floor, but within the team.

I’d really encourage other people to volunteer with Emmaus, it’s such a rewarding place.

For a full list of the roles available and for how to apply, please visit our volunteering page.