Clare Blackburn, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity Shop

Name: Clare Blackburn

Volunteer role: Retail Assistant, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity Shop, Walton Court, Aylesbury

How long have you been volunteering? I started volunteering with Florence Nightingale Hospice at the end of 2016 when they opened a shop locally and spend two mornings a week in the shop – between seven and 10 hours in total. Previously to that I volunteered at my children’s school as part of the Parent Teacher Association.

Why do you volunteer? The opening of the shop in my community ticked all the boxes: I live locally, my children go to school nearby and I had been wanting to get back into retail which I had worked in before having children 14 years ago. Florence Nightingale were also able to give me the flexibility I needed so I am able to top up my CV whilst only volunteering during school term time.

What attracted you to this role? As retail assistant I am able to update my previous retail knowledge such as contactless payments and wider retail laws. I see it as a stepping stone towards a job in retail when my children are a bit older.
As well as replenishing stock and the window displays in the shop, I have also been able to get involved in other elements of the hospice including arranging the display unit at the hospice and taking part in a monthly Volunteer Forum. The Forum gives volunteers a chance to feedback any problems or ideas to the hospice as well as pass on news and updates from the hospice to my Walton Court shop colleagues. It works really well as we feel part of the charity and it is interesting to hear about different issues being experienced by other shops.

What are the best bits of volunteering? I have met lots of new people and work with a lovely group of people who I wouldn’t necessarily have met. The shop has given me a new way to meet and interact with people in my community and is very sociable.

What are the most challenging bits of volunteering? I can honestly say I find it rewarding as I know from personal experience how valuable hospices are and I like the fact that I can give back to these amazing facilities and within my community.

What do you gain either personally or professionally from volunteering? I approach my volunteer retail role with the same attitude as when in a paid retail job; I really enjoy updating my skills. On a personal note, it has given me the chance to broaden my interaction with my local community.

Would you recommend volunteering and if so why? Volunteering offers so many opportunities: it is flexible, can fit around your lifestyle and commitments as well as being fun. I missed the camaraderie which you get in a workplace and I now experience that again in the charity shop – everyone helps each other.

I’ve never met anyone at Florence Nightingale Hospice who is unhappy in their jobs – whether volunteers or paid staff. You really do feel you are contributing to the hospice’s work and it is worthwhile. I really feel valued.

For more information on volunteering roles for the Florence Nightingale Hospice, please see: Florence Nightingale Hospice Volunteering

Updated on July 30, 2019

Images courtesy of St Francis's Children Society, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity Shop