Stories from local volunteers
To help celebrate CSV Make a Difference Day, on Saturday 27th October we’ve visited two local organisations that help to reduce, re-use and recycle to see why volunteers matter to them.
Our first stop is the William Wilberforce Trust (WWT) furniture warehouse and shop located just off the A4 near the Chiswick roundabout. All the furniture in this large warehouse has been donated. The items that need a bit of help to bring them back to their former glory are lovingly restored by trained craftsmen supervising people wanting to learn new skills. Then, this great quality second-hand furniture is made available for the many visitors who come along to buy at rates everyone can afford.
Manager Matt Clayton explained to us how proud they are to use volunteers because these people enable WWT to do more for the community. They have two elements of volunteering, the first is their employability programme participants and the other is volunteers who are part of the church that founded the warehouse.
“We have a number of volunteers who open up the warehouse on a Saturday. They open at 10am, they’ll sell to customers who come in and give us the opportunity to open for even more hours so people can buy this great affordable furniture. As well as being fantastic for WWT it’s also great for these wonderful people who are giving something back to society, to a community who need the services provided by us.”
Matt introduced us to two of their volunteers who were really happy with what they do. Peter and Jane came to the warehouse for different reasons and choose to do jobs they enjoy that contribute to the successful running of the warehouse.
Peter is a drivers’ mate on one of the vehicles that deliver furniture to its new home and collects the donations from a wide variety of sources and individuals. Peter came to the warehouse as part of the employability programme. A 16 week training opportunity to help develop new skills and make returning to work easier for the long-term unemployed or people with significant barriers to work, such as recovering from addiction, homelessness or being part of a marginalised group.
Peter described how when he lost his job he got in to a routine of watching TV and playing his X-Box but all that changed when the job centre arranged for him to interview for the employability programme. He started in July and soon found working gave him a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. He enjoys banter with the drivers and likes meeting all the different people and seeing some amazing homes. One of the homes he told us about had a whole room for the many guinea pigs in the house and the owners were donating some furniture to fit in more animals!
In November his training ends, he will use this experience in the hunt for a new job and Matt will be providing him with a reference to tell a new employer about Peter’s hard work and great attitude. Peter has learned a lot and really wants to continue working. If he can’t find a job quickly, he wants to get another placement so he keeps working and training to give him even more skills to help him get another job.
The second volunteer we spoke to is Jane, she lives locally and picked up a leaflet about the warehouse in a local centre. Having worked in furniture showrooms and using her professional skills to make cabinets she thought volunteering here would be a good match for her skills and it would allow her to start working in a friendly environment which wouldn’t cause her anxiety. The support offered by WWT has helped her establish her place as a valuable member of the team.
When we visited, Jane had almost finished restoring a maple table top. When it arrived in the warehouse you couldn’t see the wood for sticky stuff layered on the surface but now it is scratch free and almost ready to be sold. She also showed us a wicker chair which she’s cleaned and stained (pictured) and has now been sold to raise money to help this charity continue running.
Jane is also helping WWT to make links in the local community. She’s encouraging her neighbours to consider buying from the warehouse when they need furniture and is bringing the warehouse to the attention of more people who can benefit from the services available.
As well as these two wonderful stories there are many other volunteers at WWT with great stories too, all help make the charity a success. There are other ways to help though, so we continued on to our next stop – the Princess Alice Hospice charity shop on Whitton High Street.
Princes Alice Hospice has 35 shops in Surrey supported by over 800 volunteers as well as paid staff. There are 5 shops in West London – East Sheen, Richmond, Teddington, Twickenham and Whitton. The sale of donated items raises valuable funding to help provide a wide range of patient care and support free of charge.
Here we met Maggie who volunteered at the shop for 7 months before applying for a part-time job there. “I have been doing some sort of volunteering work for the last 15 years, doing things ranging from feeding the homeless to working in charity shops” she explained “I love working here, I was happy volunteering for Princess Alice Hospice but when a paid part-time role came up that fitted in perfectly with my other job I went for it”.
Whilst it may sound corny the reason Maggie has volunteered for so many different places was to help other people and she enjoys doing something with no financial benefit to her. Not everyone has a lot of time to give and she realises she’s lucky to be able to give her time. She suggested that if you want to support a charity but don’t have the money to give that donating your time can be just as useful.
Her role in the shop is varied, anything that needs to be done including tagging items, steaming clothes, sorting donations and working on the till. Making the clothes look as good as possible so when you go in to browse so you’ll be able to find something you like and want to buy.
Maggie has a personal connection to Princess Alice Hospice as her Uncle received care from them. As she lives near Whitton so it is easy to get to the shop and she knows a lot the people around there too so there is always a friendly face around.
Where could you volunteer?
If reading these experiences inspires you, have a think about giving your time to one of your local re-use projects or charity shops where you can help others and have a great impact on the environment by helping to reduce, re-use and recycle. There are many benefits for you and them, check out our first article of this week for more benefits of volunteering.
- Hounslow Furniture Project
- Princess Alice Hospice
- Richmond Furniture Scheme
- St Luke’s Hospice
- William Wilberforce Trust
- Any many more, to find local volunteering opportunities visit Do-It.