Volunteers find their niche

Karen Mansfield, Hussan Shariff and Teresa Bidlake at Hospice.

Te Awamutu has a lively op shop scene and managers say volunteers are the lifeblood of the stores.

The days of customers rummaging through musty boxes are long gone. Shops now have racks of clean, well-organised clothing and clearly labelled sections displaying china, home décor, toys, linen and books. This level of presentation doesn’t happen without a team to help manage the donated stock and get it ready for sale.

While retail is an important part of the work, Hospice Volunteer Services manager Karen Mansfield says people can “find their niche” in a range of areas behind the scenes as well as making social connection and friendships. See: Opportunity knocks.

Web Volunteers Helen and Debie at the well-stocked Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Assistant manager at Hato Hone St John, Michell Bluett agrees, that not everyone is confident being on the till – “but there’s always something people can do, and it’s a fun place to work”.

Hospice Store manager Hussan Shariff says his volunteers “are the love” and are passionate about raising money for the cause. Most do weekly shifts, with some having over 20 years’ service. Over at the Salvation Army, long-time volunteer Fi O’Connor says getting to know and help people is an enjoyable part of the job for her, “sometimes you can be a listening ear”.

What do stores love to receive?

Good clean clothing of all types and eras

Items of furniture like bookcases, coffee tables, mirrors, shelves

Household décor, bric-a-brac, paintings, vases.

Kelly Smit, manager at SPCA, says it’s all about doing their best to raise money for the animals. She would love more volunteers and says “‘all are welcome, it’s great to have a mix of skills”.

At Hospice, Mansfield says volunteering can give retirees a project outside of the home but is also great for younger people to gain skills and confidence, supported by older colleagues. Their retail manager Teresa Bidlake agrees saying “it looks great on your CV”.

Lynne Levis has been working in the St John store for the past two years. After retiring early, she says she loves using her skills, getting out amongst people and being part of a great team. Keeping busy and active is also important to Leonie Oates who started as a volunteer with Red Cross after seeing a notice in the window. Oates is now a part-time supervisor at the Salvation Army store and enjoys making a contribution to the team.

All stores are keen for more volunteers and people of all skills and ages are welcome. Debra Morrissey at Red Cross says “even if you can only do half a day, it’s a big help”

For more information, ask at one of the stores.

Thinking of donating?

Here’s some top tips

  • Check the items are clean, especially bedding, linen, and clothing
  • If it’s chipped, cracked, or broken it can’t be sold
  • Ask yourself:  ‘would I give this to a friend or family member?’
  • Check if the store takes certain items, for example, electrical goods
  • Old computers and printers are not very saleable – send these to e-waste
  • Don’t leave goods outside the shop out of hours
  • If donating bed linen, add a note to say what size it is
  • Donate goods safely – wrap sharp objects like knives
  • A single item of a pair is not useful – for example one sock or a single glass
  • Check puzzles and games have all the pieces.

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