We started volunteering for Emmaus Norfolk& Waveney about five years ago. Like lots of people, I’d always wanted to find something useful to do with my spare time. I was a regular customer at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney, so I wrote to the charity on the off chance to see if they needed volunteers. During one of my visits, I had seen a lady trying to sort out huge piles of books and I thought I could volunteer in the book department and lend a hand.
My wife Lorna and I live just around the corner, so it made perfect sense. The other thing that made sense was that I have always been a bookseller so I could bring a degree of experience with me. As internet booksellers, we don’t handle books as much as I’d like to as they go from bookshelf to packing room and back out again, so volunteering to look after the books at Ditchingham suited me down to the ground.
After volunteering at Ditchingham for a short while my I realised there was enough work for two people, so I asked my wife Lorna to join me, and she, like me, was enthusiastic about it from the start. We work together in our own bookselling business so just continued this partnership over to Emmaus.
The book volunteering role involves sorting through new donations of books, pulling out those items that are unsaleable for whatever reason, and then sorting the books into distinct areas in our storeroom to make it easy to replenish the shelves in the library downstairs at Ditchingham, ready to be sold.
When we first started volunteering there was a lot of back work to catch up with, and we were in a tiny room at the end of a corridor. I think the room had formerly been a toilet! The room didn’t hold much stock, so we started to spread out into the corridor, and eventually were given a couple of the former nun’s cells upstairs to use, which was paradise by comparison!
The number of books donated to Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney varies from week to week, but it would never come as a surprise to come in after a few days away to find 300 books had been donated. Unfortunately, a lot of them are not in a condition to be resold so we have to stack them up ready to be sent to be recycled. The recycling company pays a fee based on weight and that is another source of income for Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney.
Although not a regular occurrence, amongst items donated to us we have found several books that are quite valuable, worth three figure sums. Lorna and I take these books and sell them on behalf of Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney through our online shop to make sure they are achieving their full value.
Although we have now retired from volunteering on a weekly basis with Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney we will continue to visit and collect any books the team have considered unusual or rare to take away and sell online on behalf of the charity.
It’s been an enormous pleasure to be able to work with books, something we both enjoy, but the main pleasure has been the bond that we have formed with the team at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney. We have met some splendid people and formed friendships with both staff and companions. The companions have been the real highlight of our experience working with the charity.
What would I say to someone considering volunteering with Emmaus Norfolk and Waveney? Do it!