5 amazing people who keep our shops open

Ormeau Road shop volunteer, Joan Douglas. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Ormeau Road shop volunteer, Joan Douglas. Photo: Darren Vaughan

Volunteers are at the heart of Concern’s charity shops in the UK. Without the dedication and support of hundreds of people like them, we simply couldn’t keep our shop doors open and continue to support Concern’s work with vulnerable communities around the world.

But what kind of person does it take to be a shop volunteer? Of course, anyone can get involved – you don’t need any previous experience (although you must be over 18). But the reality is it takes a very special person – and each individual volunteer brings a unique and valued quality to the role.

Meet five amazing people who tirelessly help to keep Concern’s shops open – even in difficult times.

RODNEY ‘THE PRO’

Volunteer Rodney Maxwell pictured outside one of our shops. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Volunteer Rodney Maxwell pictured outside one of our shops. Photo: Darren Vaughan

Now enjoying semi-retirement, Rodney Maxwell volunteers three days a week in one of our shops.

Rodney’s something of a charity shop pro – and has been lending his time and experience to other charities for more than 40 years. Now a Concern shop volunteer, he’s enthusiastically taken on the role of teaching newbies how to use the till.

The shop is a great way to support the work of Concern – and is good for the local community too,” he said. “I look forward to meeting new people every day. We’re a great team of volunteers. And I enjoy the tea break!”

Rodney Maxwell

ROSE ‘THE RECYCLER’

Antrim Road shop volunteers Rodney Maxwell and Rose Skillen. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Antrim Road shop volunteers Rodney Maxwell and Rose Skillen. Photo: Darren Vaughan

Rose Skillen is a new volunteer and devotes one afternoon a week helping out in Concern’s newest shop.

“The shop has been really busy since we opened, even in these hard times,” she said. “People are coming in with lots of donations.”

That’s music to Rose’s ears because she believes firmly in the sustainability value of charity shops – reusing and upcycling pre-owned items.

I love the whole idea of recycling things that people no longer need. It’s better for everyone – it means less waste and a new lease of life for something that’ll otherwise be discarded.

Rose Skillen

SHARON ‘THE SURPRISE SEEKER’

Antrim Road shop manageress Sharon McLoughlin. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Antrim Road shop manageress Sharon McLoughlin. Photo: Darren Vaughan

Sharon McLoughlin has been managing Concern’s Antrim Road shop in Belfast since it opened only a few months ago. But she’s brimming with ideas and experience – having worked in charity retail for 14 years.

“No two days are the same,” she said. “You don’t know who’s going to come through the door, or what donations you’ll receive – it could be anything from a needle to an anchor.

I love the job because you get to know your regular customers. The atmosphere with the volunteers is just fantastic. Plus, you’re giving back to the community.

Sharon McLoughlin

JOAN ‘THE OBSERVER’

Ormeau Road shop volunteer, Joan Douglas. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Ormeau Road shop volunteer, Joan Douglas. Photo: Darren Vaughan

Joan Douglas couldn’t take her eyes off Concern’s Ormeau Road shop in Belfast before volunteering. Her family-run business was just across the road – and she passed the shop every day, even spending some of her lunchtimes browsing inside for bargains.

After retiring about a year and half ago, Joan decided to become a Concern volunteer.

I always enjoyed coming into the shop when I was working,” she said. “I liked the atmosphere and Concern’s aid and development ethos. I missed meeting people after retirement – and this was a great way to reconnect.

Joan Douglas

ALISON 'THE TREASURE HUNTER’

Ormeau Road Concern shop volunteer Alison Campbell. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Ormeau Road Concern shop volunteer Alison Campbell. Photo: Darren Vaughan

Alison Campbell has always been a big fan of charity shops because they are the perfect place for a hidden gem.

After being made redundant, Alison began volunteering for two shifts a week in one of our shops. And it’s a role that comes naturally to her.

“It’s second nature,” she said. “I was a retailer for a long time. It’s what I do, it’s in my bones. It’s nice just to give something back and know that you’re helping people.

It’s about finding that hidden gem. I delight in getting someone something that they’ll like, cherish, wear and use.

Alison Campbell

Did you know?

  • Concern has six second-hand shops in the UK – all of them in Northern Ireland.
  • Two are bookshops and four sell pre-owned household items and clothes.
  • Concern’s first shop opened in the seaside resort of Ballycastle in north Antrim after the local community decided to support Concern’s response to the devastating famine in Ethiopia in 1983.
  • Less than 10 years later, in another coastal town, Newcastle in Co Down, a group of women got together to open Concern’s second shop – this time in response to the deadly famine in Somalia in 1992.
  • To date, Concern’s shops have raised over £3 million in donations to help the world’s most vulnerable people.
  • Some of our shop volunteers have been with us for more than 35 years – now that’s commitment!
  • It takes on average 24 volunteers each week to keep just one of our shops open.

 

If you would like to volunteer in one of Concern’s shops in Northern Ireland, please contact [email protected]

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