I look forward to my Thursday mornings as a volunteer at Emmaus, sorting bric-a-brac, chatting with the companions and seeing them move on.
Before coming to Colchester, I worked as a Volunteer Organiser with Surrey County Council and Age Concern East Sussex, so when I retired, I thought I would like to try being a volunteer instead of recruiting them.
I worked for the Oxfam shop for 15 years and when that job came to an end, I looked around for something similar, but different, to do with my time. I have always shopped at the Emmaus shops since I came to Colchester and, eventually, I asked about the charity and the work it does. It seemed just what I was looking for.
When I applied to be a volunteer, I was asked to lend a hand with the bric-a-brac, sorting what comes in and filling the shelves in the shop. I quickly felt completely at home and loved the work.
What comes in as donations is endlessly interesting, from rubbish to treasure, or, at least, things good enough to sell in the shops. There is always something to unpack and a willing companion to help me lift and carry boxes if I need it.
I have always haunted charity shops, myself, looking for interesting things to furnish my house or to wear. I believe in recycling but really, for me, it is more the hunting and finding of things you can’t find in the shops. It feels good to be helping stock the shelves for other charity shop shoppers like me.
As well as the excitement of digging in boxes, retrieving good things to sell and arranging them as attractively as I can to tempt the punters, there are the companions. Quite a few have come and moved on while I have been a volunteer here, but I have really enjoyed meeting them all. Some I have got to know better, heard their stories and their hopes for the future. I have rejoiced with those who have been taken on as staff or have gone elsewhere to work or study. I’ve felt inspired by their achievements.
Working here, I have been able to learn more about how Emmaus works and occasionally to meet other staff members and to keep abreast of the developing projects, such as the New Life Shop and the improvements at the Home Shop.
Emmaus never seems to stand still and as the companions move forward, so does the organisation. I feel more than part of a group trying to raise funds for a charity. I’m a small cog in a co-operative and dynamic enterprise involving staff, companions and volunteers all working to change lives for the better. It has certainly improved mine, and I look forward to seeing what new developments the future brings.