I'll admit, I debated for a long time about whether to volunteer at my local Cancer Research UK charity shop. It's an awful way to think, but sometimes giving up your time for no pay isn't always the most attractive prospect. I've so far had loads of fun volunteering at a charity shop, and wanted to share my experiences with everyone - you never know, it might just be the thing for you!
Following numerous phone calls and a few face to face meetings with the exuberant store manager, I eventually settled on giving six hours per week on a Wednesday afternoon. You can choose how many hours you want to give. Although I said I would do six, I do a four hour shift, simply because that's when they need me most. I was welcomed with open arms - they have scores of volunteers who offer to help, but often they find people aren't reliable or all want to work a certain day.
The store manager and the assistant manager were welcoming, and quickly got me to work tagging and hanging donations. I'm unsure if the system is the same in all charity shops, but at Cancer Research UK, the managers sort the items when they first come in, dividing into piles of usable items and 'rag'. For those not familiar with rag (or showing the same bewildered face I did when confronted with the 'rag pen'), rag is the items of clothing which can't be used in the shop but can be sold to the 'rag man' per kilo. The charity shops receive so much money per kilo, which means none of the donations are wasted.
For those who haven't tagged and hung before, it is monotonous but strangely therapeutic work. Under no obligation to work at a certain speed (remember, you're helping them out, and they really do appreciate it), I spent around three hours doing this, whilst listening to volunteer banter and singing along to the radio. Wednesday afternoon is the day the rag man comes, and I feel he may be a regular feature of my charity diary!
Having been offered a cup of tea six times during my four hour shift, and a doughnut three times (do you realise how tempting a doughnut looks when you're a student?), I can honestly tell you you'll be well looked after. What you've got to remember is that the shop manager appreciates you - without you, the volunteer, there isn't a shop to run. I spent the last hour of my shift helping the store manager sort jewellery for an accessories event the shop are running. Honestly, I nearly emptied my purse there and then, there was some lovely pieces!
So, first day done. But what did I really learn about volunteering at a charity shop?
- Hanging and tagging is a skill loved by employers in the retail sector. If you want to boost your CV for applying for part time work, you can gain valuable stock room experience at a charity shop. Proficient in a stock room environment becomes your best feature! Plus employers like people who give up their time for charity, it shows you're a nice person.
- Some jewellery shouldn't be allowed to exist. After going through bags upon bags of Claire's Accessories plastic jewellery, I found I had a hatred for purple plastic beads on string. Give me vintage any day.
- There is one main advantage to working in the stockroom - getting first pick of clothes before they go onto the shop floor. I think I may have to leave my purse at home on future days, just to stop myself from buying a wardrobe of shoes.