My volunteer role involves sizing, pricing, putting clothing on hangers and getting clothes ready to go out for Emmaus Preston. That’s how I get in my steps in, every Wednesday from 9:30am to 3:30pm. The bedding, knickers and bras go to one side, while volunteer John and I sort through about 40 to 50 bags of donations for quality clothes to go on sale.
We’ve been very busy getting clothing ready to go into the new Emmaus Preston store, and I’m quite excited about it. We’re sorting so much that we’re running out of room for everything! When we’re sorting clothes, we put the brand names to one side, like a designer jacket with the tags still on. These are some of the special items that we save for sale through our eBay page. We’ve got lots of great clothes to go to the new shop; we just need lots and lots of coat hangers and rails to put them on! Then we’ll whizz them on the hangers and do what we do. We’re dab hands at it. John and I have both been volunteering for Emmaus Preston one day each week since 2016.
I got involved as a volunteer because my partner actually worked for the construction company that refurbished Emmaus Preston. I had always been interested in volunteer work, particularly for a homelessness charity, so when we saw the Facebook advert for volunteers, I went for an induction. The member of staff in charge of volunteering at the time, Karen, quizzed me and then I just rocked up one day. The companions suggested sorting out donated clothing. Then I met John, my 82-year-old volunteering colleague, and we’ve been a team ever since.
John is a dynamo. He turned 82 this year and won’t let me stop. It’s lunchtime and he’s still setting donations on the table for us to sort through. He runs me ragged! I have got to look sharpish, or he has several items already steam-cleaned and ready on the hanger for me to size up and price!
Volunteering is satisfying and it gives you a good feeling that you’re helping give someone a better life. So many people who have worked here and been supported by Emmaus Preston, have gone on to better things. Recently, one of the companions went on to become a full-time van driver, for instance. He’s got his own place now. Where at first, he couldn’t cope, he then took part in the training courses through Emmaus Preston and got his life back together. Seeing that progression is really something.
Often, we don’t know people’s stories because we don’t ask, but you can see the difference in people who come here; people getting confidence back and changing from when they get to here to when they leave. Some companions have been here a long time while others stay for a short while, take a few courses – which gives people a trade and more chance of getting a job – then move out and get a place of their own.
It’s good to interact with people that have had difficulties in the past and just talk on a level like two human beings. People supported here appreciate that because many have had a life of being talked down to and, quite often, been treated very badly. We’re all human beings at the end of the day and deserve to be treated with respect.
I volunteer because it’s giving something back. I’m just helping out. If you’ve got a bit of spare time, you should do it too.
Could you spare a few hours each week to volunteer for Emmaus Preston? A wide range of roles are available. Apply now, by visiting our Volunteers page.