When Sally Booth began looking for a Saturday job at 16 years old, she was after something a little bit different from the usual offerings.
She wanted to make a difference to her community, to gain responsibilities and experience, and have fun along the way. So instead of seeking paid work, she decided to volunteer at a charity shop in Chorley, and was amazed at how much trust was placed on her.
Now aged 19, she has worked her way up to become St Catherine’s Hospice’s youngest shop manager - something which she is rightly proud about.
“I didn’t think I would get the job because of my age,” she admits. “But I’ve been at the shop for three and half years now, so all the volunteers and customers know me, and I have a lot of experience there.
“When the last manager retired a couple of months ago, I just decided to go for it, and I cried down the phone when they told me I’d got it!
“It was an online application followed by an interview, and I was so nervous. I think it was because it meant so much to me.”
“I’m trying to attract a wider audience and more younger people; I don’t think many people would think about going to a charity shop for a sleeping bag!”Charity shop manager Sally Booth
Now, the teenager is responsible for managing 30 volunteers over three days a week, as she juggles her university work.
Sally is following in her dad, Steve’s footsteps, and is interested in marketing. She’s doing a marketing degree at Lancaster University, whilst still living at her Heapey home with her parents, including mum Jackie.
“I’m thinking of going into fashion or media,” she says. “It’s such a broad subject though, that there are a lot of routes to go down.”
And she’s able to bring her sense of fashion and marketing skills to her role at the hospice shop in High Street, Chorley.
“One of my favourite parts of the job is rummaging through all the bags of donations and looking at what we can put on display and in the window,” she explains. “I really like doing the window display, and I try to think of different themes.
“I recently did a festival theme, and staff from other St Catherine’s charity shops sent me things like wellies to put in the window. I’m trying to attract a wider audience and more younger people; I don’t think many people would think about going to a charity shop for a sleeping bag!
“I want people to stop and look at the window, and then come in and buy something. It’s still important to cater for our loyal customers, but I think people like to see a bit of change with window themes and things like that.
“A few weeks ago we had loads of shoes in, so I did a shoe-filled window display.
“I really enjoy going through all the clothes and coming up with new ideas. We get some great stuff; sometimes I end up buying it myself.
“We recently got some Marc Jacobs boots and French Connection shoes donated. They didn’t last very long, and I was gutted they weren’t my size!”
Sally has always been ambitious, having achieved a Grade 5 in singing and a Grade 2 in piano. She was also in the school choir at St Michael’s in Chorley.
And working at the shop has also really helped her progress.
“I’ve definitely matured there,” she says. “Without that shop, I wouldn’t be me. I get to be creative and it’s very rewarding.
“I think people can sometimes feel isolated when they go shopping, and they just want someone to listen to them. It’s never quiet in our shop; we’re always chatting and giggling.
“It doesn’t feel like a job. We have so much fun”
And one of the main benefits for Sally is that she’s helping a good cause too.
St Catherine’s has a bridal shop in Lune Street, Preston, as well as furniture shops in Chorley and Preston, so any items which will be more suited there will be sent off.
Some donations, such as collectables and vintage items, are put on sites such as e-Bay if staff think that would generate more cash.
“A lot of customers speak about their experience with St Catherine’s Hospice,” Sally adds. “Whether it’s a direct experience, or through family and friends, so it’s really nice to hear about how the money is being spent and helping people.
“I wanted to support St Catherine’s as a volunteer because it’s a local charity, and you can really see in the community how it’s benefiting people.
“We also have a big stock room so if people keep asking for certain things or if something is selling particularly well, like handbags or jeans, we’ll bring more of those out on to the shop floor.
“It’s really benefiting my university work as well, because I can discuss marketing techniques in my essays which I’ve used in the shop.
“It really is an amazing opportunity, and I’d really encourage anyone to think about volunteering in one of the charity shops.
“It looks really good on your CV, and I can guarantee people will enjoy it and want to stay as long as I have.
“It would be good to see more younger people get involved, but everyone counts, everyone has got different skills and experiences.”
St Catherine’s has 14 shops in the area, including two gift shops at the Mill cafe and the hospice itself in Lostock Hall.
As part of the charity’s 30th anniversary Give a Gift campaign, run in partnership with the Guardian, St Catherine’s is looking for 30 new volunteers for its charity shops, 30 people to give their time in the hospice or The Mill café and community hub, and 30 new volunteers helping out at events.
Other roles include helping with ward duties on the in-patient unit, and acting as a volunteer driver transporting patients to day therapy.
For more information visit www.stcatherines.co.uk/volunteering, email email@example.com or call 01772 629171.