Clare has been a retail volunteer for over three years now, mainly, helping out in our boutique Rochester shop. She initially got involved because her sister, Gemma, was the store manager of our Rochester shop and she would help out on busy days, such as the local Dicken’s Festival. After a while, Clare decided to make it official and register as a regular retail volunteer.
“I needed something to keep me busy and get me out the house,” Clare recalls. “I have three children, one at primary school and two at high school and wanted something to do during the day while they were at school. My husband was in full-time employment and I needed something that was just for me, where I could meet other people, for my own sanity.”
Clare particularly enjoys sorting through people’s donation and getting them ready to sell in the charity shop. By her own admission, steaming and ironing is one of her favourite things to do! She shared with us what a typical day would look like:
“I arrive just before opening, after dropping my youngest son at school. The ability to be able to continue to do the school run and volunteer was really important to me. Once I’ve signed in, I will have a chat with whoever is in charge to see what they need me to sort today and then I will head to the sorting room. It is really hard to explain, but is basically split into pens with bags of donations in each for you to sort through.
“You are basically sorting through the good quality items and what will be used for rags, looking out for brand names and figuring out how to price different items. Initially I wasn’t very good at recognising the brands, but I know a fancy brand when I see one now. When I started volunteering I worked alongside a volunteer called Paul, who was really knowledgeable on brands and fashion and he taught me a lot.
“Once you’ve sorted through the clothes you hang them up and a third volunteer will come and take them for steaming and ironing; and then they go straight on sale. It is like a conveyer belt, we’ve got it down to a fine art. Part of the reason it works so well, is the blend of volunteers we have, we are a proper little family. I’ve made some really good friends through volunteering for Demelza.”
Clare is looking forward to the shops reopening and getting back to the normality and structure of being a regular retail volunteer. As well as spending a day per week in our Rochester shop she is planning to start volunteering at our Maidstone Outlet, where she can continue to focus on what she does best - sorting through the pre-loved donations and getting these ready to be put on mannequins and photographed for our Depop shop.
We are hoping this will bring out Clare’s creative side that we have seen in her shop window displays, such as the incredible Narnia themed window decoration for Christmas a couple of years ago. Featuring cut-outs, she drew and painted the book characters, a wardrobe and some winter coats. Or more recently, Clare drew and painted the main characters from the Nightmare Before Christmas for a shop window last Halloween.
Clare’s final thoughts on volunteering were, “If you’re thinking about volunteering, do it! I have gotten so much for volunteering, I’ve gained communication skills and so much confidence. I’ve also got skills that I can include on my CV. At the end of the day, I feel tired but accomplished. It is so much more than the skills you gain, it is that sense of pride you feel at the end of the day.”
We are currently looking for retail volunteers to help us when we reopen our shops in April. If you’re interested in becoming a retail volunteer, please take a look at our volunteer vacancies and complete our online application form, or join our virtual volunteer recruitment sessions if you have any questions and would like to chat to a member of the team.