Volunteers’ Week 2023: Rita

Volunteers’ Week 2023: Rita

I’m a ‘Friend of’ Mustard Tree at the Eccles hub, (I’m Eccles born and bred!), which means mentoring new Friends of and Freedom volunteers – and anyone who needs help. I volunteer in the Community Shop and Food Club and have been there for 8 years – longer than everyone but the staff member Jonathan!

I got involved because I actually knew someone who worked here at the time, so I came in and filled out a form – the rest is history! I’d recently retired from work. I lived on my own and didn’t know what to do in my spare time. After a few months I thought ‘I need to do something and keep busy’. I don’t think I’d been in a charity shop before, but I wanted to volunteer somewhere local and Mustard Tree was within walking distance.

What I enjoy the most about volunteering is the friends you make along the way. After the first few months of volunteering, I was enjoying it that much I kept asking to do more and more days – to the point where I was volunteering every day! Working on the tills keeps my brain ticking over – I like to keep up to date with the technology.

I have a lot more confidence and a lot more friends. I’ve always been a shy person – not outgoing at all. I used to work in school kitchens and colleges, so had never worked with people before.

The first word I think of when it comes to how volunteering makes me feel is ‘useful’. If I’m not doing this, I’m at home doing nothing and just passing the time. I’ve got family close round but they’re all doing their thing. Mustard Tree feels a bit like a family – a lot of the customers are my friends. When I’m not there, they are always asking after me and making sure I’m ok.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, I’d say go for it! Try it out – you’ll probably enjoy it. This is the only place I’ve volunteered so I can’t say anything about anywhere else – but I’ve never regretted it.

I don’t think I have one favourite memory, but always think back to the volunteers and customers and think about those who aren’t with us anyone. Especially since the pandemic, when I don’t see some of the people who used to come in and wonder if they are ok.

I think a lot about some clients who come to us upset because they feel embarrassed or ashamed that they need to use Food Club. I tell them ‘don’t worry about it – that’s what we’re here for’.

What song best sums up your volunteering experience:
‘Stay with Me’ by Sam Smith.

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