Liz Diamond, Romsey Mill Charity Shop Development Worker, shares some more reflections on the life and role of Romsey Mill Charity Shop.

A man approaches with his shopping trolley, it is 8.30am but we open the door to speak to him as he is a regular visitor to the Charity Shop. He is distressed and needs to talk through a worrying situation about his neighbour’s antisocial behaviour. We signpost him to people who have the expertise to support him practically and our listening ear seems to help.

Later that morning, a regular customer comes in and we ask her how her new job is going. She tells us she has resigned, feeling that she experienced some discrimination and a lack of support to do her job. She is demoralised and concerned about how future work will pan out. It is clear that she is very able with lots of skills and we encourage her to persevere. We ask if she can help us, advising about some jewellery we have in the shop, she is glad to help and it makes a huge difference to us in pricing it.

The 30-minute visit with us seems to have had a cathartic effect and she leaves slightly happier to have been able to contribute and experience being part of our community.

Two men, who visit charity shops daily, looking for model cars come in. Several others come by to say hello and give us updates on what is going on in their lives. They enjoy chatting to the volunteers, showing interested in how they are doing, and also asking about what has recently come into the shop.

Today, the person who runs the local sunbed shop tested out a sunbed before purchasing it (see below). 

Charity  Shop sunbed

The shop tries to support those in real need in the local community and has been able to help with providing clothes, toiletries, and other practical items to rough sleepers signposting and, at times, liaising with, the specialist services that exist in Cambridge.

We make every effort to make sure we work in tandem with the main projects delivered through Romsey Mill and recently was able to give clothing to a young woman referred to us, who had left an abusive relationship and was being sheltered by the Women’s Refuge. Having no summer clothes for her children, we found some of what she needed. One of the volunteers even brought in some luxury toiletries she had bought for herself but felt the young woman needed them more.

Aspire at Romsey Mill works in partnership with the shop, creating a placement for a young man from Aspire to work once a week alongside a shop volunteer, who was once an Aspire participant some years ago. This works well as a mentoring opportunity, developing the communication skills of both young people.

The shop has a history of providing work placements for students undertaking Duke of Edinburgh Awards and this academic year has supported 8 young women through their 3-month volunteering challenges. We are also looking forward to hosting 2 young people from Aspire and 3 students from local schools to undertake work experience placements this summer.

In amongst the sorting of donations, pricing, selling and supporting regular customers we also have lots have time for some banter with people who work in the local area.