A charity is urging more volunteers to help out at its St Helens shop – and is lining up taster days for them.
The aim is to enable people to discover what’s involved, before they sign up for shifts at the Scope store in Church Square Shopping centre.
Volunteer work can be a stepping stone back into paid work or give a new interest to those who have recently retired or whose teenagers have flown the nest, said Scope shop manager Trisha Murphy.
“We really could do with extra help, especially in the run-up to Christmas when we are always busy,” said Trisha.
“We’re a happy team here, we get along really well, but there’s always a lot to do, much more than I think many customers realise.
“That’s why we’re now offering taster days first, for anyone who is seriously thinking about volunteering. They can come along and try it for a day to see if the work suits them.”
The shop has also just launched its annual fundraising bumper Christmas raffle with tickets on sale from now until mid December and prizes including festive hampers, wine and a cuddly teddy.
Trisha said: “This is one of our busiest times of year, with lots of people popping in to buy festive gifts or choose from our range of Scope Christmas cards. So any volunteers who join us now can expect to be very busy.
“The days don’t drag here at all as there is always something to do behind the scenes. We’re up and down the stairs all the time, it’s not just about working on the shop floor.”
The volunteers can find themselves steaming and hanging the array of donated clothes, sorting goods, replenishing shop shelves, keeping the premises clean and tidy, running raffles and serving customers, as well as staffing the tills.
The idea of the taster days was introduced to help both potential volunteers and the existing shop team.
Trisha explained: “People can be quite surprised at the amount of work there is to do, so on the taster days we will always ask them to be completely honest with us and tell us whether they like the role or not.
“We don’t mind anyone saying that they don’t feel they are suited to the challenge after all, as we realise it’s not for everyone. But we prefer them to tell us up front that they don’t like it rather than join the rota and then drop out.
“Some people who originally have a very limited idea of the tasks involved realise there’s a lot more to it than they thought and become very enthused about joining us.
“Volunteering can open up new doors and is a useful way for people who have been out of the work environment to get back into a work day routine. It’s a confidence booster and a great way to meet people and get to know the St Helens community.
“Past volunteers have used it as a stepping stone to help them return to paid employment.”
Trisha’s current team is 10-strong, with most assistants coming in about two days a week, though she is a full time employee and so there every day.
She said: “We welcome volunteers of all ages from 16 upwards. A number of helpers are retired people but we also have some mums who pop in to help for a few hours while their children are at school.
“People volunteer with us for all sorts of reasons, from wanting to pro-actively support the Scope charity, to suddenly finding they have spare time on their hands that they want to put to good use. Some younger people also volunteer to help achieve community awards such as via Duke of Edinburgh or Prince’s Trust schemes.”
A former school dinner lady with two sons, two daughters, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild, Trisha has worked at the Church Square Scope branch since it opened nearly 10 years ago and enjoys it as much today as she did when she first started.
She lives with her husband John in St Helens and previously volunteered with a local church charity shop.
She said: “After I finished as a dinner lady I returned to college to study to be a teaching assistant, but when I saw the job advertised to manage the Scope shop here I applied for it instead. I’ve never regretted it, we’ve built up a lovely family team and we’ve lots of regular customers who we all love to see.”
Church Square Shopping Centre manager Steven Brogan urged people thinking about volunteer work to get in touch with the Scope shop.
He said: “Trisha and her team do a great job and are so friendly. They put their hearts and souls into the work they do.
“It is not easy as people may think, as there is quite a lot to do away from the counter, sorting all the donations the shop receives, so they need as much help as they can get.
“The taster sessions are a great way for people to find out, without having to commit themselves, if this sort of volunteering is for them or not.”
Potential volunteers need two references and can pick up an application form at the shop. Anyone wanting to know more can call in to speak to Trisha for more information about the work, and about the taster day opportunities.