A new charity shop sales assistant says she is counting her lucky stars after a “whirlwind” few weeks – securing her new job less than two months after becoming a volunteer.
Lesley Hughes recently took up her role at the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) shop in Sheringham but just a handful of weeks after signing up to help in Swaffham. The 63-year-old says everything has happened quickly but is grateful to have been fast-tracked into paid employment.
“One minute I was questioning what I was going to do next,” said Lesley, who has a daughter and granddaughter and lives in Castle Acre.
“Then, out of nowhere, this amazing opportunity presented itself. I’m not sure if it’s fate or a case of being in the right place at the right time. Either way, it’s absolutely perfect and I’m very grateful.
“A whole new pathway has opened up for me and I feel very fortunate and blessed. It’s perfect because when you reach a certain age, if you’re not careful, it can be easy to become quite introvert.
“You don’t necessarily want to try new things, whereas having this opportunity has forced me to grow as a person.”
Lesley worked in the food manufacturing industry for nearly 30 years. She then had a clerical role before Covid struck.
The animal lover started working on a care farm, helping children with behavioural issues, but that was seasonal and came to a natural end in the autumn – prompting her to begin volunteering in Swaffham in September.
“I saw a sign in the window and thought ‘that’ll keep me out of mischief’,” said Lesley.
“I’m not a big sports fan and don’t particularly like Saturdays at this time of year, so offered my services from 10am until 4pm. I got such a strong, positive first impression and then, within a few weeks, I was made aware of a sales assistant vacancy at Sheringham.
“I was encouraged to go for it, had an interview and the rest is history. Everything’s happened so quickly. I owe a lot to the Swaffham manager, Maria Wakeman.
“She was the one who told me to go for it. She’s been absolutely wonderful and helped so much. When I started at Sheringham, people commented on how much I knew, despite having only been volunteering for a short period of time. That’s all thanks to Maria.
“I must also say a big thank you to Naomi (Munro), the shop manager at Sheringham. She and her team have given me such a warm welcome and made me feel settled from the start.”
In addition to her paid role, Lesley says she would still consider volunteering in Swaffham on a Saturday. And regardless of her capacity, either as a sales assistant or volunteer, she loves her time in the EACH shops.
“I’ve met some amazing people and love the idea of giving something back,” she said.
“The social side is very important and everyone has been so welcoming, helpful and committed. Our volunteers represent such a diverse group from all walks of life, from former nurses and solicitors to retired police officers.
“Everyone’s had a unique and interesting life but they still want to keep on giving, which is very inspiring.
“Between us, we create a lovely, welcoming atmosphere and I was struck by that immediately. There’s so much variety and it depends on what people want to do. You can either concentrate on one thing or embrace a bit of everything.”
For more information about volunteering for EACH, speak to a member of staff in-store or contact volunteer services on 01223 205183. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To find your nearest EACH shop, head here.