Married couple Alison and Jeremy started volunteering with us at our Emmaus Gloucestershire Superstore in September 2022. In a recent interview, they shared their experiences about their roles and what they enjoy most about volunteering with us. Read on to find out more…

How did your volunteering at Emmaus Gloucestershire start?

Alison: “We’ve known about Emmaus Gloucestershire for quite a few years now and respect the work it does. I like that it enables people, giving them a purpose, rather than handouts. We’ve always donated and purchased things here; you never know what you’re going to find when you come in! I’d always thought that when I had the time, I would like to volunteer at Emmaus Gloucestershire and that became possible when I retired. When I was having my induction and tour around the building, I saw the PAT testing room where electrical items are tested and thought, I know someone who would be very happy tucked away in that room! Jeremy was already thinking about what volunteering he wanted to do but hadn’t settled on anything, so I asked if he fancied PAT testing…”

Jeremy: “And I came in and did my application. I had never done PAT testing before, so thought it would be interesting. Emmaus Gloucestershire arranged for me to go on a one-day course and then I started. I really enjoy doing it because it’s practical, hands-on work. I’m very happy to do it for Emmaus Gloucestershire for the same reasons that Alison is too.”

What is your favourite thing about volunteering at Emmaus Gloucestershire?

Alison: “For me, it’s the companions, who haven’t all had an easy time of it. I like to offer a smiling face and bring in cake sometimes. I’m enjoying getting to know the customers as well. I see the regulars and we have a little chat now, like with the chap who likes his Wilbur Smith books. If he reads this, I’m sure he’ll know who he is! I also enjoy how lovely and welcoming everyone is here as well as the variety. I do all sorts; sometimes it will be sorting jewellery, other times it might be books or toys. There’s a lot of sorting involved, and I love that.”

Jeremy: “I like the people here as well, but for me working in the workshop and doing something practical is my favourite thing. The ability to come in and do it in a nice environment, knowing it’s worthwhile, is great. Emmaus was also really great at sorting out the training for me. It’s good working with Phil too, the other volunteer in the PAT testing workshop. His background is in electronics engineering, so when we have an item that doesn’t work but is worth repairing, I give it to him to fix up.”

Alison: “We both also quite enjoy coming to work together. Because we both volunteer in the same place, we know what the other one is talking about when we share stories. We also have lunch together, which is lovely. Jeremy usually keeps an eye on the time as I get lost in all the sorting! There’s so much going on in this building at any one time, it’s so dynamic and never boring. I’m just really pleased that after all the years of thinking that I wanted to volunteer here, that it’s everything I thought it would be and more.”

How often do you volunteer at Emmaus Gloucestershire?

Jeremy: “We do one day a week, but the other good thing about Emmaus Gloucestershire is the flexibility. We’re not on a set day or number of hours. We can switch our days around, which is great because we both have other things to do.”

Alison: “That’s something I really value too because we both need flexibility. We’re happy to give the commitment once a week, but it’s good to be able to vary the days. We’re reliable, but we can swap and change. It’s what keeps us coming here. We haven’t got a rigid timetable; we’ve had enough of that from years of working!”

How would you describe what Emmaus does to someone who had no idea?

Alison: “I do this quite often actually. A lot of people haven’t heard of Emmaus, which surprises me. We do like to spread the word. We let people know that someone who is homeless or facing homelessness can find a room in a community and that they are given bed, board, food, support, and a small allowance. In return, they help out in the shops and on the vans. I love that Emmaus gives people self-respect. I’ve had conversations with companions who have said that they’ve never felt more valued than since they came to Emmaus Gloucestershire, which I think is just fabulous. Feeling valued is all people need sometimes. It’s good that Emmaus gives that.

How is volunteering different to working?

Jeremy: “We both had full-on jobs before retiring, so we constantly remind ourselves to slow down a little and take breaks when we’re volunteering here. We know that we don’t have to work at the same pace our high-pressured jobs required, but we still haven’t fully got used to it!”

Alison: “There is always lots to do here, but I know that I don’t need to do it as fast as when I was working. When we first started, we were both dashing around like mad things! Our daughter says we need to learn to dawdle, but I don’t think we’ll ever do that!”

Jeremy: “Yes, I don’t think we’ll ever do that, but we are working at a more normal pace now.”

Alison: “Well I don’t know about that; I know what I’ve been like this morning! Even when we were waiting for this interview, Jeremy gave me some jobs to do so we weren’t standing around doing nothing!”

What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering at Emmaus Gloucestershire?

Alison: “Don’t hesitate.”

Jeremy: “Absolutely.”

Alison: “Just come in and ask about volunteering. As Jeremy said, it’s so flexible. There will be a lot of people who have just retired like us and are the ones with the time, which is great, but volunteering at Emmaus Gloucestershire is open to anyone, even if you can’t give a lot of time. There are so many roles here too, but potential volunteers might have other skills to offer that Emmaus hasn’t even thought of.”

Jeremy: “The other thing I would say is that I found it quite difficult to know what I wanted to do as a volunteer. You might know that you want to volunteer, but you’re not quite sure exactly what you want to do. Alison pointed me in the right direction, but there are so many other different volunteering roles at Emmaus Gloucestershire. You can come have a look without having a preconceived idea of what you want to do. Deliveries, shops, electrical testing, support work… you can discover what you don’t know!”

To find out more about volunteering at Emmaus Gloucestershire in our Gloucester, Stroud or Nailsworth shops, visit here.