An hour in the life of a charity shop volunteer
Mellissa Oliver and other volunteers share their experiences of volunteering in a British Red Cross shop. Spoiler: it's very rewarding and lots of fun!
As a recent volunteer at my local British Red Cross charity shop, I want to share my experience. Above all, I want to encourage others to join me in volunteering for a fantastic cause!
Like many, I work full time so finding the time to volunteer can be challenging.
Fortunately, the British Red Cross is extremely accommodating and there is no minimum commitment time-wise. For example, I volunteered on my lunch hour at my local furniture and electrical shop in Redhill, Surrey.
As a passionate writer, I also blog for the British Red Cross. Through my writing, I help to connect readers to the cause and what the British Red Cross does.
I have always loved writing, and it’s great that I can use my passion to contribute towards something so important.
What motivated me to volunteer?
I believe the Red Cross does wonderful work. Working in the Redhill store is lovely, everyone enjoys coming here to shop and volunteer. I used to be a customer and am really glad I started volunteering here.Helen, 76, volunteering for four years
The wide range of volunteering opportunities at the British Red Cross was a key motivator for me. Using my passion to make an impact and be a part of something big is exciting.
Plus, volunteering is great for your mental health! Doing something positive for the local community, in addition to learning new skills and meeting new people, has been very rewarding for me.
It’s important that you volunteer for a charity or cause that is close to your heart. If you are truly passionate and enthusiastic about the cause, that will shine through.
What does an hour in a charity shop look like?
It's a relaxing place to volunteer, with a lovely atmosphere and friendly people.Rosie, 17, volunteering for three years.
The team were warm and welcoming, and I got stuck in right away in the busy shop. I covered a wide range of roles including serving customers (I’m now a pro on the till!), pricing stock, visual merchandising and sorting through donated items.
Having worked before in a variety of retail environments, it was lovely to see how kind the customers were towards volunteers. It was also fun to chat with those who came in to donate their books, crockery and other household items.
I enjoyed learning new skills such as using the till. You don’t need to be trained to work in any of the charity shops, as you can learn new skills quickly as well as using existing ones.
I came away feeling inspired by the like-minded, motivated and positive volunteers around me. And it was interesting to talk to some of the other volunteers about their backgrounds and interests. It became clear that volunteering with the British Red Cross really is for everyone, no matter what your lifestyle or preference is. Whether you are a student, a full-time professional, a retiree (to name a few examples), there is a role to suit everyone!
What can you do as a charity shop volunteer?
It's a very sociable and lively place to work with a brilliant atmosphere.Cheryl, 50, volunteering for three years
You don’t need any experience and committing even as little as one hour per week can have a profound benefit to both the charity and to your own mental health and wellbeing.
- Fashion students could help to merchandise their local shop and create eye-catching window displays.
- Someone with a graphic design background could create point of sale materials.
- Interested in photography? You could use your skills to take and edit photos of stock.
- Keen writers can help to tell the British Red Cross story by writing blog posts to promote Red Cross Retail, or articles for the internal newsletter.
Find out more about volunteering
Mellissa Oliver is a British Red Cross retail communications and marketing volunteer.