I’ve been volunteering with Emmaus for about seven months now.

I’m Hinckley born and bred. My journey with Emmaus began when I attended a session at the Department of Work and Pensions about local volunteering opportunities, at which the staff from Emmaus gave a talk about their charity and the various ways to get involved. I’d shopped at the Emporium before, but I hadn’t realised it was a homelessness charity.

I had recently retired early on medical grounds, due to osteoarthritis. My last job was as the manager of Maxi Saver in Hinckley, where I worked for three years. Unfortunately, the physical demands of the job, such as using stairs and carrying heavy items, became too much for me.

Not wanting to be stuck at home all day, I started looking for volunteer opportunities. I wanted to find a charity shop that was accessible on my mobility scooter, with convenient parking for it, and Emmaus fitted the bill perfectly.

I volunteer most days, except when I’m helping out with the Hinckley Community Fridge. At Emmaus, I’ve worked with the donated items that people bring in, helping sort fabrics and other goods for sale in the Emporium’s Craft and Upcycling Corner, a popular section filled with crafting, sewing, and knitting supplies. Most of my time, though, is spent sorting stock for the Boutique department. I go through the clothes, shoes, and accessories that are donated, ensuring they are in good condition for sale. While we hope everything is re-sellable, some items unfortunately can’t be put out due to stains or excessive wear.

We’re really fortunate to receive generous donations, and sometimes we come across some real gems. I recently found a beautiful pair of Michael Kors boots with the labels still on them.

I really enjoy volunteering; every day and every bag of donations is different.

There’s always a sense of excitement when opening a new bag, wondering, “What surprises do we have today?”.

Volunteering gives me a reason to get up in the morning. It provides a routine, but it’s also flexible, which is crucial for me. Mornings can be tough because I need to take painkillers and wait a few hours before I can get out of bed. When I was working, I had to wake up very early just to manage the pain and still make it to work on time. If my arthritis flares up and I need to come in late or miss a day, it’s not a problem – the work will still be there the next day.

The atmosphere here is incredibly supportive. If I’m having a bad day, I can talk to people who listen and understand. I know I have a support network I can rely on. I get along well with the other volunteers and the companions (people supported by the charity who also help run the shop).

I highly recommend volunteering. It’s so relaxed here, and we all get along so well that it feels like being part of a big family. Volunteering has been a lifeline for me. I can’t imagine sitting at home all day staring at the same four walls.