We recently caught up with Gemma Cruttenden, Ecommerce and Communications Manager to find out more about her 10 years at Demelza and why she has spent the last 10 years laughing and doing something that she loves.

We recently caught up with Gemma Cruttenden, Ecommerce and Communications Manager. Gemma joined #TeamDemelza as a volunteer 10 years ago when her oldest child was six-months old and she was looking to get back into work. After a few months of volunteering in our new Rochester Shop she became a paid member of staff, as our Sales Assistant. Over the next few years she worked her way up to manager of our Rochester store and in November she officially moved into the role she is in now.

Here is what Gemma had to say about the last 10 years: “I’ve gained so many skills over the last 10 years it is hard to really capture how much I’ve changed. I think communication is a really key part to working in our retail stores, we have such a wide range of volunteers and as a result you need to be able to just talk to people and establish those relationships. I often say this, but where else can you have a friendship group aged 21-87 that all get along – personally, I don’t think I would get this anywhere else.

“One of the really exciting things was that I got to help shape the Rochester Boutique as it was a new shop when I joined. That said it was very organic, it just grew and adapted with the high street. For example, it used to come alive with things like the Sweeps Festival and these were crazy busy days to work.

“There have been so many highlights from the last 10 years, but I think one of the most surreal moments was when the whole shop spontaneously burst into the Time Warp, one Halloween. It was like having a flash mob in the shop. I mean who wouldn’t dance to the Time Warp, it is like an unspoken rule, right?! This was when we had turned the shop in to the Little Shop of Horrors for Halloween.

“I had my area manager at the time coming for a visit, who was clearly a bit confused by what was going on and then the Time Warp started and customers started to dance and well that sums up my 10 years really. I’ve spent 10 years laughing. In the Rochester Boutique we used to come up with these outrageous ideas and we never found one thing that Robin (Area Manager) would say no to. It almost became a competition and every year Halloween got bigger and better. Halloween was definitely my favourite time of year, because we got to be a bit silly.”

Gemma has recently been helping us to raise awareness of the need for more retail volunteers and this is what she had to say on the matter: “Charity shops also have a massive impact on the people in our local community. 85% of our younger volunteers are able to go on and find a job. Volunteering for us gives them the chance they need to get some experience. It also has a positive impact on their wellbeing.

“For me it is extremely rewarding when we’ve had volunteers that have gone from being anxious and shy to running a shop floor six months later. I would like to think that we give a safe space for volunteers going through issues and challenges, and create an environment where they can blossom.

“At the end of the day if volunteers are happy then we’ve done OK in my mind. I always say to my volunteers if you’re not having fun, then there is no point doing it.”

If you're interested in volunteering for Demelza and would like to find out more you can read more about joining #TeamDemelza on our volunteering page, or alternatively you can contact our Volunteering Team directly on volunteering@demelza.org.uk.