Denise Drain, from Portstewart, shares her experience of volunteering to encourage more volunteers to support the Age NI Store in Coleraine.
Denise, 66, is originally from Kent in England and started helping out in the shop on Railway Road in October 2014, an experience she describes as a turning point in her life.
‘I was ready for a fresh start. I’d gone through a significant life event - my personal circumstances had changed and I needed to move forward. I was actively looking for something else to do. I knew this something had to be worthwhile otherwise I wouldn’t have gone out the door.
I’ve always been interested in helping out in a charity shop so I popped into the Age NI shop to ask if there was anything available. After a brief chat with Louise, the shop manager and Helen, assistant shop manager, I felt an instance rapport. They were so friendly and welcoming. The shop also had a nice atmosphere. I knew a volunteer role here would suit me perfectly.'
Denise explains her role, ‘I volunteer twice a week, and try to help out at least one Saturday afternoon each month – it’s one of the busiest days. I support the day-to-day running of the shop, carrying out typical retail tasks like stock taking, putting out clothes, and keeping the shop clean and tidy. I enjoy helping the customers to find items, especially if they’re looking for something in particular, and packing their bags.
‘I mainly work on the till. My previous experience on the tills in Tesco’s Limavady for 8 years provided me with skills that would prove useful in the shop. Although prior experience isn’t essential as training is provided.
‘I live with my daughter, two cats and a little dog, a cross between a King Charles Cavalier and a Bichon Frise. I fit my volunteering around my daughter’s schedule who works shifts. Although the cats can take care of themselves, I like to be at home as much as I can to help look after the dog. The role is very flexible and accommodating. I try to vary my days and can choose what date and time suits me. Though I’ll always make sure to let the shop know when to expect me in.
‘I’ve been volunteering for two years this October and I thoroughly enjoy it. Before taking up my role, I’d go as far as the local shop or just sit all day watching TV. Now I lead a fulfilling later life by getting out of the house, contributing to the local community, meeting new people, chatting with the customers and having a laugh with staff and the other volunteers. I bake and often bring in homemade cake or bread to share with everyone. They look forward to me coming. I would say to anyone who is interested in volunteering to just go and do it!
The Age NI shop sells pre-loved clothes, homeware and accessories to raise money to support people in later life. It also plays an important role in the local community by providing older people, their families or carers with access to a range of Age NI services including an information hub with free guides and leaflets on issues in later life like money, care, housing and health.
For more details about volunteering with Age NI, contact Stacey Lee, Volunteer Coordinator, on 028 9024 5729 or firstname.lastname@example.org