Volunteers speak of landing jobs after 50 years helping out

published on 3 Jun 2021

Two Larne charity shop workers have spoken of how they landed permanent jobs after notching up a total of almost 50 years of volunteering between them.

Jackie Merrell and Samantha Bridges work at The Salvation Army shop on Dunluce Street, helping provide people with affordable essentials and raising money for frontline services.

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June 2021) the women have been looking back over their time in the store.

Shop manager Jackie took her first volunteering shift in 1985, helping her mum who was also a volunteer. Much has changed around the place since then but Jackie’s enthusiasm for helping people remains the same.

It’s a labour of love for her, with all profits from the shop going towards The Salvation Army’s community work in Larne and across Northern Ireland.

She said: "Whether it's being a volunteer or managing the shop, my motivation has remained the same - helping people. And I have received a lot of help from customers and my fellow staff and volunteers.

"It's also great to know the money we raise not only helps The Salvation Army's work in Larne but also its wider work. I had the privilege of visiting a family centre in Belfast and was amazed at the special garden with mud kitchen, musical tubes, wigwams, and different things to help the children and parents during the pandemic."

The other part of the dynamic duo in the shop is Samantha, who was a customer for years and began volunteering when her youngest child went to school. Nine years later and now employed part-time, Samantha is still there “doing her bit”. She loves sorting out the donations and getting them ready for sale.

Samantha said: “After all the years doing this particular task, I am no longer shocked at what comes out of some of the bags.

"But seriously, being able to help link a donation to a specific person is a great feeling. A regular customer wanted a pair of large waist trousers for his father. We had none in stock but Him upstairs knew this was a genuine need and soon we had five pairs donated. And not only that, they were also the right length in the leg as well.”

When asked what the strangest thing they had sold they both agreed it was a large crystal elephant. The lady who bought it was a visitor to Northern Ireland and had it carefully shipped to her home in London.

Satisfaction, appreciation, and fun are just some of the words Jackie and Samantha used to describe their volunteering experience which led to their employment.

They are always looking for more volunteers and anyone interested should call Jackie on 028 2827 0965. Restricted hours are in place so please call before visiting the shop.

Support our Spring Appeal