Sam Ellis is duty volunteer manager at the EACH shop in Diss and has been helping there since September 2016. She joined the team after three decades working at Clarkes of Walsham.
Sam, who lives in Redgrave, on the Suffolk-Norfolk border, had various roles and was passionate about her job, but was forced to take stock after her partner died in a tragic industrial accident, in 2011. She describes it as a “turning point” and, five years later, decided to leave and dedicate her time to EACH. She had previously raised funds and had a tour of the charity’s former Quidenham hospice, in Norfolk.
“I’ve always loved being involved in things,” said the 54-year-old, who volunteers in the shop every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. “I used to be on our village hall committee and had taken part in fundraising activities for EACH. Then something horrendous happened that made me re-evaluate life and what I wanted to do with my time.
“I’d been in the building trade for 30 years and knew that if I didn’t leave soon, I’d still be there until I was 70. It wasn’t that I was unhappy. I loved my job, my colleagues and our customers. However, I knew I wanted to do something different and that’s why I made the massive, heart-wrenching decision to leave.
“What happened was a truly horrific time in my life but it gave me the opportunity to turn something horrendous into a positive. When something like that happens, it makes you reassess and take stock of your life. I had an opportunity to volunteer and always said that if I did anything, it would be to help children or animals.”
With that in mind, Sam believes EACH is a perfect fit and she loves her role in the Diss shop.
“It’s local, special and a charity everyone has a place in their heart for,” she said. “It’s certainly close to mine. There’s a real warmth and affection within the community and I’ve come to realise that even more, since helping in the shop. People genuinely want to help and sometimes we’re overwhelmed with donations.
“My own personal connection moved to another level just before the pandemic, after attending a volunteer thank you day. A parent was the guest speaker and I felt so moved. I bumped into her later in the afternoon and we had a long chat about all the help she gets from EACH. It was just amazing and very humbling.
“Volunteering makes me extremely proud and I drive people mad telling people about EACH. I’m always trying to sign up new recruits. I suss them out, work out their strengths and then go in for the kill and ask them! In all seriousness, it’s definitely something I’d recommend to anyone.
“From a personal perspective, starting here was the best decision I ever made. I certainly don’t have any regrets and, if anything, wish I could do more hours. If my volunteering helps just one family, albeit indirectly, then I’m so pleased.”
Sam, who has a 14-year-old son, Freddie, would recommend others to consider volunteering at Diss. She said: “It’s a brilliant team and I’ve got so much time for the staff and my fellow volunteers. We bounce off each other and, although we work hard, we also have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
“I love it here and love the fact it’s so different to my job with the builders’ merchants. It’s physical and I’m on my feet all day, which is great after so many years in front of a screen at a desk. That’s exactly what I wanted and I love serving customers, sorting through donations and making the shelves look good.”
To join Sam and volunteer at Diss, pop into the shop, email email@example.com or call 01379 651939.