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St Oswald’s makes urgent plea for 135 new charity shop volunteers

The Hospice launches its first Retail Volunteer Recruitment Week (12 – 17 June 2017) in response to ‘volunteer crisis’

As we mark the end of Volunteers’ Week 2017 (1 – 7 June), our retail team has revealed a critical need for 135 more charity shop volunteers.

With a current headcount of 512 volunteers supporting our 28 shops across the region, the retail team is preparing to launch the very first Retail Volunteer Recruitment Week (12 – 17 June 2017) in a bid to attract new people into giving any spare time they can to overcome the crisis.

According to the Charity Retail Association (CRA), the average number of volunteers at a UK hospice charity shop is 20.7[1] – double the figure of some of our shops.

Our Gateshead shop is one of our busiest stores – but has just 10 regular volunteers. Our Sunderland shop, which raises funds for our Children’s Hospice has 11 regular volunteers, while our Four Lane Ends shop has only 14. All shops have faced the threat of not being able to open, despite demand from shoppers as a result of low volunteer numbers.

With over 20 years’ experience in the voluntary sector, retail area manager at St Oswald’s, Susan Freeman leads on volunteer recruitment for our shops and retail services. She said:

The scope of people able to volunteer has changed in recent years, and with more demand on free time this has impacted on our numbers. We’re trying to overcome this by letting people know that volunteering for St Oswald’s retail team is completely flexible – you can fit it around your commitments and we promote a ‘little and often’ philosophy. While potential volunteers might think we only want people that can dedicate a lot of time, this isn’t the case. We have a lot of volunteers that help out a couple of morning shifts a week, or an afternoon a week – just a few hours here and there. Every little really helps and this is why we’re asking for so many more new volunteers. If you look at averages, we have 18 volunteers per shop, but this isn’t a true reflection for the majority. Based on the CRA’s national figures, we’ve doubled the difference of how many we need to meet at least the national figure with the hope of creating a new ‘army of volunteers’ to support our ‘little and often’ approach.

Our shops range from traditional shops in the heart of local communities to specialist stores - including our innovative upcycled furniture boutique, Re-styled by St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle which recently started a new Home Crafter Volunteer Network meaning people can volunteer their time and talents at home. The wider retail volunteer team includes van driver assistants, e-commerce, maintenance, and administrative assistants – all urgently needing more help. 

Susan added:

We created Retail Volunteer Recruitment Week as a way to engage with the public face-to-face and bring volunteering to life in a fun and exciting way, which reflects what it’s really like to volunteer with us. Our shops play a huge part in the lives of North East people - local communities rely heavily on us to make their lives more affordable, from clothing families to furnishing homes and businesses, and the Hospice benefits massively; volunteering in our shops for just one hour will cover the cost of four three-course meals for our Day Hospice patients, while 10 hours equates to the cost of twoCare Support Workers for one day in our Children’s Hospice. Being part of that is very special.

The Retail Volunteer Recruitment Week initiative will see events take place at different locations each day showcasing the wide variety of volunteering opportunities on offer. Visitors can learn more about how they can personally benefit from a retail volunteer role, sign up for a taster day and enjoy special offers.

Susan finished:

A retail volunteer role is incredibly fulfilling, with something for everyone – no matter your age, background or abilities. Many of our current headcount have been with us for a long time – some have even gone on to secure full-time positions as shop managers. Whatever you need you will find it volunteering with our shops, be it new skills, friendships, confidence or a place to come to chat or have a laugh, while giving something back, we have it all and usually biscuits too. We hope people will see the benefits volunteering can bring and join our teams with any time they can afford.

For more information on our exciting volunteering opportunities, click here or contact the retail helpdesk on 0191 246 9071 / retailhelpdesk@stoswaldsuk.org, pop into any of our shops or get involved at one of our events.

We hope to see you there!

St Oswald’s Retail Volunteer Recruitment Week events will run from 10am – 3pm, unless otherwise stated, on:

Monday 12th:

  • St Oswald’s Gateshead shop, 31 Jackson Street, NE8 1EE. T: 0191 478 7261


Tuesday 13th:

  • The Oxford Centre, West Farm Avenue, Newcastle, NE12 8LT (Four Lane Ends shop team).    T: 0191 266 6430


Wednesday 14th:

  • St Oswald’s Byker shop, 127 Shields Road, NE6 5DN. T: 0191 228 9574


Thursday 15th:

  • St Oswald’s Dunston Furniture shop, 13-16 Ellison Road, NE11 9SS. T: 0191 493 2873
  • St Oswald’s Shiremoor shop, Unit 1B, Northumberland Park, NE27 0SJ. T: 0191 270 1951
  • Sainsbury’s Shiremoor, Earsdon Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE27 0SJ (Shiremoor shop team) - 4.30pm - 7pm. T: 0191 270 1951.

Friday 16th:

  • St Oswald’s Sunderland shop, 59 High Street West, SR1 3DP. T: 0191 565 7023.

An additional event will also take place the following week from 10am-3pm:

Saturday 24th:

  • Tesco Extra Kingston Park, 102 Brunton Lane, Newcastle, NE3 2FP (Kingston Park Warehouse team). T: 0191 286 8040.