The pathway to employment: celebrating volunteer progression at the Sue Ryder Abbeydale shop

Carol, Mark, Louise and Jacqui have all gone from volunteers to paid members of staff at our Sue Ryder Abbeydale charity shop. Here, they all discuss their own initial reasons for joining Sue Ryder as volunteers and their journeys towards their current retail roles in the Abbeydale team.

Opening the door to new possibilities

Volunteers join Sue Ryder for a variety of reasons and from a variety of backgrounds. Each volunteer brings their own unique skills and life experiences to their role, and their enthusiasm and dedication enriches the hospices, neurological care centres and shops where they donate their time. In turn, volunteering can be a hugely rewarding experience, which opens the door to new pathways and possibilities.  

This is definitely the case for Carol, Mark, Louise and Jacqui, four volunteers at the Sue Ryder Abbeydale charity shop. Although each of them initially started volunteering only a few shifts a week, thanks to the support and encouragement that they received from Abbeydale shop manager Jane, they all soon progressed to become lead volunteers. Over the last year, all four have now also taken on positions as paid members of staff at the shop. 

“This is an amazing achievement,” says Stuart Ure, Volunteer Coordinator for the Retail West Region. “To see this kind of progression is a great example of how becoming a senior lead volunteer can really help on the pathway to employment.”

Meet the Abbeydale staff and discover more about their personal volunteering stories.

Carol, a staff member outside the Sue Ryder Abbeydale shop
Carol: “I’ve really grown in confidence during my volunteering journey.”

Carol’s story

Carol had been a carer for her mother for 20 years before she sadly passed away in 2019. After her mother’s death, Carol felt lost and isolated and struggled to see a way forward. Whilst out shopping one day, Carol saw a sign asking for volunteers at the Abbeydale shop and decided to apply. 

“Both my parents received care from the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice at Home nurses, so I had a real personal connection to the charity. 

“At first I was anxious about contacting the store about the position and it took me a week to pluck up the courage to go in. However, upon entering the store and speaking to the manager, Jane, I immediately felt relaxed and at ease. I started by doing just a couple of hours and found that I really loved it, so after only a short time I started to increase my shifts. One day, Jane suggested that I apply to become a lead volunteer. I thoroughly enjoyed the role and took a particular interest in assisting Mark with the furniture side of the store. 

“When the Abbeydale shop opened a furniture store as a second unit, the opportunity arose to apply for a paid position. Although I was nervous to apply, I was delighted to be offered the position of assistant manager at the new store.

“I’ve really grown in confidence during my volunteering journey. The team has been really supportive and I am now in a great place emotionally. I love the fact that I am helping Sue Ryder and supporting a charity that made such a difference to my family, and so many others.”

Staff member, Mark, outside the Sue Ryder Abbeydale shop
Mark: “I am proud to run a very successful shop with a great atmosphere.”

Mark’s story

Before volunteering at Sue Ryder, Mark had left his previous job because of the stressful work environment. He has now found an atmosphere that he loves at the Sue Ryder Abbeydale charity shop and has progressed to become the manager of the new Abbeydale furniture store.

“My mother was a lead volunteer at the Sue Ryder Brockworth charity shop, so I was familiar with Sue Ryder as a charity.

“One day, I was in the Abbeydale store as a customer and saw how busy it was, so I approached the manager, Jane, and asked if they would like any help. At first it was one day a week, then two, then three. 

“I really enjoyed spending time at the shop so when a paid sales assistant position came up, I went for it and was successful. From that point I started upon a new career journey, progressing over time to become assistant manager of the shop and then taking on a new challenge as manager of the new Abbeydale furniture store. 

“I am really passionate about supporting Sue Ryder in order to help as many people as I can. My ethos is that a happy, appreciated and motivated team will make much more money for the charity, and I am proud to run a very successful shop with a great atmosphere. 

“I am happy to go the extra mile and do the jobs I wouldn’t ask of others. When you hear our patients’ stories it really spurs you on to be the best you can and raise the most you can. We all want to make sure that every donation is recognised for the love and care it will help Sue Ryder provide.”

Louise, a staff member, standing outside the Sue Ryder Abbeydale shop
Louise: “I’m really glad I took the first step and started on this new journey.”

Louise’s story

For Louise, volunteering at the Abbeydale shop seemed a useful chance to develop her experience while she searched for a new job. She didn’t anticipate that donating her time as a volunteer could lead to a paid career at Sue Ryder. 

“I originally applied online to volunteer as I had been looking for work and I thought that volunteering would be a good way to gain new skills. I was initially lacking in confidence, but the atmosphere was warm and welcoming and I very quickly settled into the team. Working at Abbeydale is a lovely atmosphere. Everyone gets on and is proud to be here.

“When the shop reopened after the first COVID-19 lockdown, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a senior lead volunteer. I felt this would be an exciting opportunity to grow my retail knowledge and my leadership skills. The experience was really beneficial, and when the position of a paid sales assistant became available later in the year, I had the confidence to apply for the role and was successful.

“After such a challenging year, it was an emotional time to get the job and I was very proud to be offered the position. The transition from volunteer to lead volunteer and then to becoming a paid member of staff was a big challenge, but both Jane and Mark were really supportive and helped me build my confidence. I’m really glad I took the first step and started on this new journey.”

Jacqui, a staff member at our Abbeydale shop, outside the front door
Jacqui: “Volunteering here has helped my mental health and made me feel valued.”

Jacqui’s story

Jacqui had been a carer when she had suffered a back injury that left her with a disability. Volunteering at the Abbeydale shop offered an opportunity to embark upon a new career path. 

“I thought that volunteering would give me a chance to try out a different career in retail and I loved it from the first few shifts. From the beginning, the support I received from the shop manager Jane was amazing. She didn’t write me off or discriminate against my disability, but instead saw what I had to contribute. 

“Volunteering here has really helped my mental health and made me feel valued and respected. When a paid role came up, I had no hesitation in applying and I’m really pleased to now be a paid member of staff. 

“Sue Ryder is a great charity. As I found out more about the hospice care that Sue Ryder provides, I decided to also get involved in fundraising, and it has been great to learn more about that side of the organisation as well. I would like to thank everyone in the team for their support.”

Volunteer with Sue Ryder

If you've been inspired by these volunteering stories, visit our volunteering page, where you'll find information about becoming part of our team, frequently asked questions and our latest volunteering opportunities.