“I absolutely love it. Everyone’s so friendly, I’ve made great friends and learnt so many new skills” – shop volunteers Emma, Louise, Mike and Barry have no regrets about joining the team as EACH celebrates its first year in Frinton

Dedicated volunteers are getting in the party spirit to help a popular charity shop celebrate its first birthday.

Emma Elliott, Louise Richardson, Mike Tonkiss and Barry Foster give their time to support Frinton’s East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) store, in Connaught Avenue.

It opened a year ago this month and celebrations are being planned to mark its first birthday, on Saturday, 25th May.

There will be a raffle, tombola, balloons and facepainting, with sweets and treats for the shop’s loyal customers.

Louise has been helping for ten months and says it has become an important part of her life.

“Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose and has helped rebuild my confidence,” she said.

“I’d had to give up my job as a carer because of a back injury and spending too much time at home isn’t always a good thing.

“Until you find yourself in that situation, it’s not easy to understand.

“My confidence had been dented and it took some courage to sign up as a volunteer, without any experience of working in a shop.

“However, my mind was put at rest straight away and I was instantly struck by how clean, tidy and well-organised the shop is.

“Ten months on, I absolutely love it. Everyone’s so friendly, I’ve made great friends and learnt so many new skills.”

Louise loves the sociability of being in the shop and has become close to Emma, as well as shop manager Lorraine Ingold.

Emma started four months ago, having always wanted to get into volunteering.

That feeling intensified after being made redundant from her job in publishing late last year.

“I came in to drop off some donations and saw the board appealing for extra help,” she said.

“It was a sign – literally – that this was the right time and meant to be.

“I had a chat with Lorraine, found out more and filled in the forms to get started.

“It was nerve-wracking to start with but I’m glad I pushed myself and haven’t looked back since.

“I love it and enjoy the feeling of working hard, for such a worthwhile cause.

“For me, it’s more rewarding giving your time as a volunteer than being paid to do a job.

“You’re there because you’ve made a conscious decision to do something worthwhile, rather than just to pay the bills.

“Full-time work doesn’t have the same feelgood factor and every time I leave I feel I’ve done some good, given something back and served a purpose.

“It’s something I’d recommend to others. We all lead busy lives and a lack of time was one of the things that put me off.

“However, a few hours a week makes a massive difference and isn’t an unreasonable amount of time. For me, it’s achievable and well worth it.”

Barry volunteers on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well as lending a hand in Frinton’s British Heart Foundation shop.

The 50-year-old particularly enjoys steaming clothes.

“I love helping customers and seeing so many friendly faces,” he said.

“One of the great things about helping is the range of things you can do.

“People don’t realise but there are various roles and they can effectively choose what they do, depending on what they’re interested in.

“There’s no pressure to do anything they’re not comfortable with and if they take a liking to something, they’ll be given the freedom to get on with it. There’s a sense of ownership.”

Mike is the shop’s newest recruit, having joined the team in late April.

Hailing from Sydney, he has been in England for 37 years and retired last July, after many years as an IT director.

He worked for various big companies, including BP, but decided to call it a day after coming to the end of a two-year project in Connecticut.

He enjoys serving customers, as well as overseeing the shop’s bric-a-brac range, and attends on Monday and Thursday mornings.

“I was beginning to get bored and missed social contact with other people,” said the 62-year-old.

“Without being boastful, I’d had a decent career and it felt the right time to start giving something back. There’s a sense of accomplishment that goes with that.

“The difference is that I come here because I want to – because I’ve chosen to give my time – and not because I have to.

“It’s completely different to what I did in IT.

“It’s chalk and cheese and I haven’t worked in a retail environment since helping in my parents’ shop in Sydney back in 1987!

“You could say I’ve come full circle and that’s a nice feeling.

“It’s early days but I love it so far and my early impressions are positive.

“Working for a non-profit organisation is refreshing and as soon as I walked in I was struck by the range of stock.

“It’s not like a high street store where there are lots of the same item.

“Here, it’s a rainbow of colours, styles and brands – an eclectic mix – and the shop feels light and airy.

“One other thing that appeals is the flexibility and you feel appreciated and valued for helping when you can.”

Louise, Emma, Barry and Mike were speaking during EACH’s ‘Don’t pass by, give volunteering a try!’ campaign.

To find out more about volunteering, pop into your local shop, visit each.org.uk/volunteering, email volunteering@each.org.uk or call 01223 205183 (option four).

Find our notes to editors here.

Keep in touch:

For further information about this release please contact:

Matt Plummer | Media and PR Manager | 07738 328058 | Matt.Plummer@each.org.uk

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