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Reap rewards of charity role: Volunteering for the British Heart Foundation

By Heather Large | Features | Published:

When Liz Jewiss decided to help others by volunteering at her local charity shop little did she know it would do her the world of good too.

Mum-of-three Liz volunteered at the shop when her youngest children started school

With her two youngest children now settled at school, the stay-at-home mum decided it was time to try something new.

But Liz found it a struggle to find work until she spotted the British Heart Foundation was appealing for volunteers at its shop in West Bromwich.

She felt an instant connection with the charity which funds life-saving research into all heart diseases, stroke, vascular dementia and diabetes.

“If there was one charity I was going to volunteer for, the British Heart Foundation was the one, because it’s close to my heart.

“My dad suffered with heart problems and several strokes before he passed away so it was a way of giving something back,” explains Liz, who lives in Wednesbury.

“Before volunteering with the British Heart Foundation I was a full time, single mum and my life totally revolved around my children.

“I decided to volunteer after struggling to find work, knowing it would help me gain valuable work experience, as well as giving something back to the community,” adds the mum of three.

She first began working as a volunteer in May last year and soon found the job suited her down to the ground.

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Liz is now assistant manager

“It’s more than just a retail job because you are know everything you are doing is for a good cause and helping the British Heart Foundation carry out its work.

“I like greeting customers and meeting new people. It’s amazing to be part of a team – they feel like a second family.The girls who did my training at the shop in West Bromwich were brilliant and helped me so much,” says Liz.

The charity has 20,000 volunteers in total with 17,000 working across its network of 750 shops in England, Scotland and Wales, which each year raise around £30 million to help fund its vital research.

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Collectively, they prevent over 70,000 tonnes of items from going into landfill each year, providing a sustainable solution for those looking to shop or businesses and individuals keen to donate good quality items.

Volunteers help with everything from merchandising on the shop floor and giving great customer service at the till to sorting and pricing the generous donations

“A typical day would be coming in doing some paperwork, pricing up items for sale, talking to customers and helping them with sales,” Liz tells Weekend.

Her strong work ethic and dedication impressed her managers – so much so that she was offered the paid role of assistant manager of the charity’s newly-opened furniture and electrical store at Perry Barr’s One Stop Shopping Centre.

Nearly a quarter of employed retail positions at the British Heart Foundation are filled by those who have previously volunteered for the charity.

“It’s an absolute honour to have been offered the role of assistant manager. It’s quite a jump from volunteer from assistant manager but I felt ready to do it.

“The British Heart Foundation loves to give volunteers paid jobs if they can and I’m very grateful to be given the chance to be assistant manager,” says Liz.

Ahead of the shop’s opening last month, she was part of the team getting the shop ready from arranging stock and organising the layout.

The shop stocks a wide range of items

It sells a wide variety of good quality pre-owned furniture and home appliances; from sofas, suites, chairs, tables, beds and wardrobes to TVs, Hi-Fi systems, washing machines, fridges and dishwashers.

There are items available to suit all budgets and for anyone looking for a modern item, an antique gem or something chic.

“It was important to make sure everything was perfect for the opening,” says Liz.

On opening day, shoppers were welcomed with a cutting of the ribbon before being given the chance to browse the shop for the first time and bag some bargains.

Liz says volunteering helped her to build up her confidence and enabled her to learn many new skills as well as being part of a team.

“Since signing up I feel like I have rediscovered my identity and have really built up my confidence. I would definitely recommend volunteering to anyone looking to improve their work skills. It’s also a great way to make friends and feel part of a team,” she adds.

Liz and the rest of the team are keen to encourage people if they are in the area to pop into the store for a browse through their wide range of products and to learn more about donating unwanted items to the charity.

“Each item sold will help the BHF fund life-saving heart research, so please do come by to see what great bargains are on offer.

“We still urgently need more donations so if you are having a clear out in the next few weeks, we would love to receive any unwanted furniture and home accessories.

“We even offer a free collection service so making large household donations couldn’t be easier, just get in touch with the shop if you would like to arrange one.

“If you would rather give the gift of time, we are always in need of volunteers who can spare a couple of hours a week, so please get in touch if you are interested,” says area manager Julie Taylor.

The charity has a range of opportunities to suit everyone’s needs and provides full training and support.

To find out more about volunteering for the British Heart Foundation see www.bhf.org.uk/volunteer

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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