More than 1,500 volunteers generously give their time to support Zest and St Elizabeth Hospice.
These volunteers provide support in many ways, including working in either of the two Zest retail shops, in Colchester and Ipswich, or by working alongside Zest staff in supporting young adults at X-Change evenings and weekend drop in sessions.
Having worked at the Zest retail shop in Ipswich for three years, shop manager Lucy Beckett is a familiar face to many and knows how important volunteers are to the success of Zest.
“We literally couldn’t do the work we do without the help of our volunteers,” she explained.
“They make the Zest shops vibrant and unique which is a big appeal to many customers. Through the enthusiasm and input of our volunteers, our shops are constantly evolving and as a result break the mould of what people expect charity shops to be.
“Zest staff and volunteers handpick everything that goes onto the shop floor to ensure everything is right for our audience. The shop is fresh, modern and spacious so it feels like luxury shopping without the high price tags, it’s exactly how I always dreamed a charity shop experience to feel like but could never find.”
Every year over £100,000 needs to be raised by the Zest shops, online Depop store and fundraising activities for the young adult charity, which is at the heart of the work carried out by the Zest retail teams.
With a passion for working in retail for a brand which allowed her to contribute to her community, Lucy became more aware of St Elizabeth Hospice, and the organisation’s wider services such as Zest, after her grandfather passed away.
“Seeing the care my grandad and family received made me really passionate about giving back to the hospice and helping more people access their services,” said Lucy.
“Previously I had worked at BHS, but when the opportunity to work with Zest came along it was too perfect to turn down.
“When I first started working for Zest I didn’t know much about the young adult group and what the hospice provided for them but after volunteering a few times I soon realised the value of the service.
“Even now, when I get caught up in the day-to-day running of the shop, I remind myself of this and why Zest exists and it’s the biggest motivator. I also really love how much the local community has bought into the concept and it’s such a great feeling to hear people love the shop as much as we do!”
A typical day volunteering alongside Lucy and her team sees volunteers helping with opening of the store, placing items on the Zest Depop online store, organising donations, working on tills and collaborating with colleagues to develop new ideas on how to promote and present the store to the public as well as on Instagram.
By supporting Zest, volunteers not only contribute to an important service in their community but often develop new skills and gain experiences which serve to help in other areas of their lives.
Lucy said: “We welcome volunteers of any age but we have found Zest is very popular among school or college students.
“Often they have never been in a working environment so helping at the shop provides useful work experience and one of the most frequent feedback comments we receive is that they have gained confidence which has then helped them with their future studies and careers.
“Through working at Zest I have made lots friends among customers, colleagues and volunteers, and although it is sad when volunteers leave, many of them stay in touch and I am always proud to hear what they have gone on to achieve.
“If anyone is thinking about supporting Zest I would encourage them to get in contact. It’s a fun place to be, where you can meet new people and make a real difference to our shops, all while supporting a vital service in your community.
“You don’t need to commit loads of times or have any previous experience in order to volunteer for Zest, as we offer training to all volunteers. Any time you offer is really appreciated, whether that is one hour or half a day, any help makes a difference to Zest and the young adults who use its service.”
To learn more about volunteering opportunities at Zest and St Elizabeth Hospice email email@example.com or visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/support-us/support-us/volunteer-for-us/.
To find out further about Zest visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/about-us/about-us/zest or to shop online with Zest visit www.depop.com/wearezest/.