When John Butler isn’t self-isolating at home due to the Coronavirus outbreak, he is usually volunteering in our Community shop in Uckfield, where he has been now for a couple of years.

To say that he has made an impact is probably something of an understatement, because after just six months, John was nominated for Volunteer of the Year and won the title. ‘I was gobsmacked when I won. I’d only been here a few months so to win it was a big surprise. I had a couple of days down in Bristol with my daughter as part of my prize. The Chief Executive, David Scott-Ralphs, came over and presented me with a certificate and congratulated me, which was very nice.’

Prior to working in the St Wilfrid’s shop, John volunteered for about seven years at another charity shop along with another of his co-workers, Jennie. John says, ‘I came in to the shop and met Pauline, the Community Shop Manager, and liked it here so much. She offered me a job almost on the spot; it probably helped that I’d worked with Jennie before too.’ You can read Jennie’s story here.

John really enjoys working in the shop; ‘My wife died 16 years ago with a brain tumour so I just wanted to feel that I was putting something back.’ He adds, ‘When I retired I didn’t want to just sit around doing nothing and it was nice to be able to offer my services to, what was then, a new shop. When the time came to move on I wanted to continue volunteering. It gets me out of the house and gives me something to do. It’s nice to mix with people and continue doing what I enjoy.’

He usually works two shifts a week, a morning and an afternoon, but he adds, ‘If Pauline is ever short of volunteers and I can help then I’ll do extra hours.’

Volunteering in retail was something completely new to John. His career was as a service engineer for an American scientific equipment company covering the south-east of England, installing and repairing pieces of equipment. Working in a shop, he says, is totally different, ‘and it’s nice to be doing something completely different from what I did for over 30 years.

‘The transition was very easy. Pauline settled me in and explained what was what. The till was also very straightforward, although I don’t get on there when I’m working with Jennie because that’s her job!’ He adds, ‘Apart from the till, it’s a case of covering the shop when Pauline’s not around, checking stock in, pricing and displaying on the shop floor, helping customers with their purchases, cashing up and locking up if you’re the last one in. It’s a mixture of lots of things.’

What would John say to someone who thinks they haven’t got anything they could offer as a volunteer? ‘Try it! Go in and talk to one of the managers, whether in one of the shops or at the hospice. Give it a go and you’ll be surprised, because there are so many different roles. It’s just nice working with the community and doing something for the hospice.’ 

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