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Volunteering Derby: A chat with ExtraCare Charity Shop Manager Caren Jephson

Caren Jephson, 54, is the Retail Manager at ExtraCare’s shop in Sinfin, Derbyshire. Caren shares her own experiences with volunteers at the shop.

I have worked for ExtraCare for 9 months. I have seen over time that whilst we are still getting retired and semi-retired people wanting to volunteer for a variety of reasons, we are also getting more younger people volunteering in Derby. There are a number of government and school schemes that we as a charity are well situated in the community to facilitate. We offer encouragement and support to these young people. We have students who are doing their Duke of Edinburgh for example, and employed people who want to give up some of their valuable time to help the charity, and gain new skills and friends in the community.

We have 38 volunteers at my shop, volunteering is extremely important because it gives a sense of purpose, helps with confidence and low self-esteem. It can often feel like you are part of an extended family. You can learn valuable life and practical skills whatever volunteer age you are, and you can make lifelong friends.

There are several roles for volunteers in my shop. With supervision initially, a volunteer can learn to use the till, this is a great experience to gain confidence, not just in dealing with cash and credit card payments, but also learning to interact with the customer in a positive way. Learning about good customer service encourages return visits. There is the opportunity to learn about merchandising making the shop look appealing and therefore the volunteer gains pride in their work. Sorting, tagging, steaming is taught for those that would prefer to be behind the scenes. Teaching about Gift Aid and how important it is to ask each customer who donates is also another way to gain confidence in interacting with people and in turn to gain much needed funds for the charity.

The best experiences I have had with volunteers is seeing them come out of their shell and gain that all important self-esteem. For some volunteers coming to ExtraCare is a reason to get out of bed in the morning. For others especially the younger ones it helps give them life skills and experience to confidently apply for jobs. My best experience with a volunteer was a volunteer with one arm who was declined by a few charities as not suitable. She was ready for another rejection and it took her a while to register I was taking her on. This volunteer could hang, use the till and do all aspects of the job. She went on to achieve a Young Persons Volunteers award. This was so rewarding, she gained a reference and now works in a paid job in retail.

For all of the above reasons I would always recommend volunteering to anyone. It is a valuable experience for everyone from any walk of life regardless of age. We can all learn from one another in a safe, and structured environment.

To become a volunteer simply email now!