I’ve written before that a big part of what we do as Community Shop Managers (CSMs) is taking a step outside of the traditional charity shop environment to reach out to our local community and build links with other charitable organisations. This can take the form of working with local university students on exciting projects, running stalls at community events, or as I went to do in March, representing and explaining Shelter Scotland’s volunteering opportunities to bright eyed potential new helping hands!

I was put in touch with the Princes Trust, a charitable trust that helps support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those leaving care, facing issues such as homelessness or poor mental health, or those who have been in trouble with the law. As part of their work, they were interested in running “opportunity days” for the young people whose programme with the Trust was coming to an end, so they could be helped to progress on to training, volunteering or jobs. They were kind enough to invite us along to give a presentation on the first of these “opportunity days” they were piloting, so along with a few other charities also invited, I went along with one of my volunteers.

This first session was presented to only 10 or 12 young people, although I had somehow led myself to believe I would be speaking to a room full of people and had gotten unnecessarily nervous! Liz and I happily explained what volunteers working in our shops would be up to on an average day; from working the till, serving customers and staffing the front shop, to sorting through stock, hanging and steaming clothes and organising our charity shop goodies from customers to dig through. We also explained what they would get out of volunteering; improving their teamwork and social skills, a good grasp of retail and working with customers, not to mention the chance to get accredited customer service qualifications through training courses we run with Big Impact Training. This encapsulates the two-way relationship of volunteering, where on the one hand you’re doing fantastic work to help Shelter Scotland in its mission to ensure there is a home for everyone, and in so doing get the chance for self-improvement, CV building, training and to be part of a great team and make some friends while you’re at it!

The first session went excellently and the presentation was very well received. I’m very much looking forward to the next “opportunity day” and I’m sure we’ll have many more young volunteers from working with the Prince’s Trust!

Stay tuned for part 2 in a few weeks!