Kelly Norways began looking for volunteer opportunities when she enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh (D of E) scheme. She had been impressed with Rennie Grove based on her own research and a friend’s feedback but didn’t expect to become as attached to the cause as she did during her three years of volunteering – way beyond the life-span of her D of E award!
Kelly says: “I first heard about Rennie Grove through a friend who was volunteering in the local shop. She had really positive experiences of being a volunteer and motivated me to find out more about the charity.
“I was especially keen to volunteer for Rennie Grove because I know that as a local charity it is very dependent on funding from the local community, making the work of the charity shops particularly important.
“I was also struck by the sensitive and inclusive approach the charity takes towards care. I particularly support the provision of care in the home in order to keep the patient as calm and comfortable as possible, along with the availability of support services for family members. After researching the work of Rennie Grove I was convinced that it was a worthwhile cause to which I wanted to dedicate my time.
“It was important to me to feel that I had made a significant contribution towards the charity and was helping Rennie Grove to continue to provide their care services. Along the way I hoped to have to opportunity to interact with more of the Little Chalfont community and to learn how to use the till!
“I worked at Rennie Grove’s charity shop in Little Chalfont. Over the course of three years, my role was fairly versatile, though most often I would be helping to collect donations and prepare them for sale by sorting, pricing and steaming what people had brought in. Other jobs I would do included putting out new sale items and culling older items, cleaning the shop, helping with displays and occasionally working on the till. Recently I helped to find new volunteers for the charity by advertising at my school, resulting in several girls starting work in the shop.
“I always felt very supported as a volunteer as the managers were always very understanding and flexible if I had school commitments or other clashes with my regular shift. When I introduced a friend to the shop they kindly made sure that we could volunteer on the same day. They were also really efficient D of E assessors, writing my reports quickly and in lots of detail. They were always very complimentary about my work in the shop which was nice for me to read!
“I didn’t have much problem juggling volunteering with other commitments as the shop is about two minutes away from my school so it was very easy to just come and volunteer for an hour straight after school before I went home. The fact that I would only work in the shop for an hour each week meant that school work did not have to suffer as a result. Also the flexibility and support of the managers meant that I was able to take time off in instances like exam periods if I needed to, although often I liked continuing to volunteer as a way of getting out of the house and taking a break from revision!
“I really liked feeling involved in the local community, having the opportunity to interact with and help customers from the area who I would not normally cross paths with. I also loved feeling like a part of the team and felt like I got to know the people in the shop and have a good catch up each week! Most of all I appreciated discovering the value of the work Rennie Grove does and feeling like I was making some contribution towards this.
“I think the community affiliated with the shop is what makes it diverse and interesting. There were always surprising donations, strange contraptions or funny outfits, anything ranging from massive tables to tiny thimbles, and there was an endless list of weird and wonderful things which were brought in. We also had lots of colourful characters in the shop, and conversations with customers were often amusing. It made me laugh how some people would want to have in depth discussions about cutlery whilst others seemed to come into the shop just to have a chat about their grandchildren or the weather!
“I think the main thing which I had not expected when I began volunteering for Rennie Grove is the emotional attachment you develop. It is very easy to sign up simply because you know you need something to put on your D of E form, but actually the charity comes to hold a special significance for you. I learned lots of basic skills like how to tag and label donations, how to use the steamer and the till. I also developed my communication skills by getting lots of experience of interacting with customers and members of the team.
“However, I had not anticipated feeling compelled to continue volunteering once I had completed my award, but when the time came I was certain that I wanted to stay – and I’m really glad I did. I came to feel that I was a part of the shop community and that the work I was doing was making a difference. It seemed a waste to stop. I suppose I had not expected to feel that my volunteer work particularly mattered or made much difference, an opinion I quickly discovered to be wrong. Also, encountering customers who were similarly attached to the charity, particularly individuals who had known people supported by Rennie Grove Hospice Care in their final days, deepened my attachment to the charity. Now Rennie Grove will always be special to me.”
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