St. Margaret’s Hospice is highlighting the benefits of volunteering as it aims to recruit more people to help run its charity shops across Somerset.

The 34 shops generate vital income to help pay for care for people affected by life-limiting illnesses, and more volunteers are urgently needed to keep them running.

Around 650 volunteers across the county currently help with tasks including serving customers, sorting donations, moving furniture and updating retail displays, but many shops are still looking to fill gaps in their rotas.

Ann Hall, manager of the St. Margaret’s Hospice shop at Abbey Manor in Yeovil, said: “Our volunteers are essential – we wouldn’t be here without them. I started as a volunteer at our Ilminster shop. It’s rewarding and you feel like you are giving something to the community.”

Deputy manager Julie Earl, above, added: “A lot of people want to help because they know someone who has been cared for by St. Margaret’s Hospice. For others it’s a chance to build their confidence and gain experience to help them find a job. It’s a very friendly shop where people often pop in for a chat.”

Volunteering can be useful experience for young people, the unemployed or those returning to work after bringing up children. It is equally popular with retired people who want some social interaction while giving something back to their community.

Drew Cameron, 17, below, started volunteering three years ago and now has a Saturday job at the charity’s Old Cinema Home Store in Yeovil. He hopes the experience will stand him in good stead when applying to university and in his future career.

“It’s definitely helped me become a lot more confident,” he said. “When I started I was nervous about answering the phone. Now I have a lot of experience of talking to customers. As well as helping the charity to raise money, it’s good for my CV.

“I would recommend volunteering to other young people. It’s a nice environment to work in and you meet a whole range of different people.”

Another volunteer said: “It’s very satisfying. It gives you a chance to meet people, especially if you live on your own, and it’s nice to get to know your customers.”

Volunteers do not need any previous retail experience, and shifts can be arranged to fit in with other commitments.

Debbie Fox, above, deputy manager of the charity’s Hendford shop in Yeovil, said: “We are very flexible because we recognise that lifestyles are changing and volunteering needs to adapt to be attractive. The main skills we’re looking for are an ability to socialise, be cheerful and smile.”

Last year St. Margaret’s Hospice supported more than 3,800 people affected by life-limiting illnesses across Somerset, with all care free at the point of service. The charity’s shops generated 31 per cent of the income needed to make this possible.

For more information about volunteering with the St. Margaret’s Hospice shops team, please email [email protected] or phone 01823 353781.