‘You’ve always got to keep in the back of your mind why you’re doing it’ - our Retail Volunteer on why it’s important to give back. 

‘You’ve always got to keep in the back of your mind why you’re doing it’ - our Retail Volunteer on why it’s important to give back. 

As part of Volunteer’s Week, we’re talking to our volunteers about their experiences volunteering with us in a variety of roles. I had the pleasure of speaking with Norman, a Retail Volunteer in Edinburgh who has dedicated part of his retirement to help us tackle the housing emergency around the UK. 

We rely heavily on help from our Retail Volunteers. Their time each week ensures our retail stores are well organised and customers feel comfortable when they come into one of our stores.  

One of those volunteers is Norman. He’s been with us for the past three years and volunteers up to eight hours per week at our Edinburgh Corstophine retail store.  

After taking early retirement from his job as a Technical Manager for BT, Norman decided that he wanted to spend his time giving back to his community. He describes himself as a ‘people person’ and says volunteering in one of our retail stores was a perfect fit for him. 

Norman describes volunteering as a ‘two-way thing. You’re donating some of your time to a charity but you’re also getting something out of it.’ 

Helping an organisation from the inside is a bold step for anyone. It’s the reason why we’re celebrating our volunteers this Volunteer’s Week. Not only have our volunteers identified a rising problem in the UK, they’ve been generous enough to give their time to try and fix this problem.  

‘People can be very selfish, says Norman. ‘If you can donate something back to the community, whether it be through volunteering for Shelter or something else, it’s a two-way thing. You get a bit of self-satisfaction, especially if you’re retired, it gives you a bit of a routine and purpose in life.’ 

Norman is an avid cyclist and recently his retail store held a fundraising event that involved a virtual cycle route from Carrick to Edinburgh. Each volunteer took part in the route on an exercise bike to help raise money for Shelter. This is just one of many team activities they organise, and it really helps to bring their team together. There are also young people who volunteer in the store and Norman believes that watching them grow in confidence is a rewarding experience.

‘I think I’ve got a bit of a buzz out of volunteering with people with less experience than me and those with learning disabilities. Shelter’s very good at helping people with learning disabilities. We have a regular volunteer who visits the shop to do an odd hour every week and treating them with respect, bringing them out of their shell a little bit makes things worthwhile.’ 

It’s clear that a combination of giving back to his community and helping people build their confidence is what Norman enjoys about volunteering. Some customers who come into the store are elderly, looking for a good chat or someone to simply talk to and Norman says he’s very happy to provide this. Not only does this encourage people to come back to the store, but Norman’s positive attitude certainly strengthens the community he lives in.

‘You get your regulars that come in as a bit of a routine. Inevitably they do buy something but I’m sure most of the elderly people that come in are quite lonely and just come in to the shop for a chat.’

‘You’ve always got to keep in the back of your mind why you’re doing it,’ Norman believes. Like most of our volunteers, Norman was motivated to volunteer by the homelessness he saw in his city on his way home from work. ‘Every day I’d pass people who were homeless with a cup in their hand, and I said to myself it’s very difficult to pass them and not put money in their cup.  

‘I thought the solution is not just to put a couple of quid in their cup, it’s to do something about it.’ Even though his initial intention was to volunteer in one of our retail stores, he found gratification in helping the community around him.  

We are also celebrating Pride Month this month and encouraging all our volunteers to share what this month means to them. We believe everyone has the right to a safe living environment whatever their sexuality or gender. As part of the LGBTQ+ community himself, Norman shared with me what Pride Month means to him and reflected upon its importance in the world we live in today: 

‘Pride is important to me as it allows everyone to be accepted as an equal. This is the 50th anniversary of Pride and I find it refreshing how things have changed in accepting the LGBTQ+ community. The ability to commit to your loved one through marriage is another result that Pride has contributed to.’