Volunteers’ Week 2021: Becoming a Sue Ryder volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic

During Volunteers' Week 2021 (1-7 June), when we celebrate the vital contributions of people across the country who give up their time to volunteer and the tireless, dedicated support of our own Sue Ryder volunteers, Sharon shares her story.

When she was made redundant during the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to embrace her love of charity shops and start a new volunteering journey at the Sue Ryder Maidstone shop.

Sharon, a Sue Ryder retail volunteer in our Maidstone shop
Sharon, in our Sue Ryder Maidstone charity shop

“I had spent much of my working life selling fragrances at Gatwick Airport, including 11 years with Jo Malone London in duty free. Then in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic started to surface. By October 2020, I had been furloughed and then made redundant.

“I started to think about what I could do next. I had always loved shopping in charity shops and I thought why not give volunteering a try. I went online and saw that Sue Ryder was advertising for volunteers. It seemed like a perfect fit, so I applied and got the position to volunteer in the Maidstone branch.

“From my very first day volunteering in the shop, I knew for a fact that I had found my calling. The satisfaction I feel from knowing that we help people in all walks of life is very rewarding. I wish I had started volunteering much earlier in my life.

“Joining Sue Ryder has been an exciting challenge. I’m learning lots of new things and new ideas. I really enjoy interacting with the customers. I get to know their life stories and understand how hard life sometimes is for them.

“Sue Ryder is the most amazing place to volunteer. I am really grateful to work with such an amazing team, who make each and every day a special one.”

Having joined the Maidstone shop as a volunteer, this year Sharon was delighted to be given the opportunity to take up a permanent part-time position.

The interior of a Sue Ryder charity shop, showing shoes, clothing and handbags

Sharon’s manager, Lisa Burtenshaw, said: “Sharon is a very caring lady. From the day she started to volunteer with us, we knew straight away she would fit in with the team. Having already worked in retail, Sharon went straight on the till when she joined us and the customers loved her. She quickly learnt how we operated and loved the atmosphere and team we have at Maidstone, as well as becoming very passionate about the charity.

“In December 2020, a sales assistant role came up in the shop and we encouraged Sharon to apply. She was successful and has been in the role since April 2021. Sharon is full of energy, eager to learn and just brilliant at customer services.”

Even during the last financial year, when the pandemic was at its height, our volunteers contributed an amazing 350,000 hours to support our palliative, neurological and bereavement services. Their support has a huge impact on Sue Ryder, and in turn volunteering can have a significant impact on their own lives too. Sharon’s journey is a perfect example of the opportunities that volunteering can offer, from sharing your skills and helping your local community to finding a new career path.  

Thank you to our volunteers

Taking place 1-7 June, Volunteers' Week is an opportunity to celebrate the millions of people across the UK who donate their time through volunteering.

At Sue Ryder, our volunteers play a vital part in enabling us to be there when it matters for the people we support. Wherever they are, whatever their role - we are hugely grateful for everything they do.

Volunteer with Sue Ryder

If you would like to volunteer with us, you can find out more about joining our team, frequently asked questions and search for volunteering opportunities near you.