Crisis charity shops – a good crisis to be in

crisis charity shop, kettle mag
Written by Sally Rohleder

With much of writing on the backburner presently — in terms of the novels I write, I have been searching for full-time employment that will hopefully give me stability and skill growth for the long-term future…oh, and a regular, decent income of course.

Recently, I decided, much by fluke of coming across a Crisis charity shop in my local area, to apply be a volunteer in their Hackney branch, East London. Although it came about rather impromptu, I knew it was good direction to take in helping me find a paid employment as it looks good on one’s CV, plus all work experience is of value.

Crisis charity shop

Upon enquiring I was given a simple application form that I filled in right away by the friendly supervisor who introduced me to the other team members working on that day. Straight away I felt a good vibe from the staff and the store was buzzing with customers, and an excellent playlist much to my taste of soul music, and it was nice to hear the customers singing along as they shopped.

I was also impressed by the quality of the goods — very reasonably priced, and the fresh, contemporary décor with its upcycling twist. I was astonished to discover the shop had been there for 2 years, yet I had not before stumbled inside let alone across it. Anyway, after bagging my bargain, I went home happy to have a steal of a pristine sequinned top at £6, but more so to have spontaneously offered my services as a retail assistant for free.

Yep, despite needing money, I indeed needed something to break the cabin fever and monotony of sitting at my PC all day job searching and filling applications.


From thereon, an interview was arranged for the following week. It was relaxed and informal and I started two days later. I was given options to work 4 or 7 hour shifts as little or often as possible. As they really needed people for Thursdays, I said a 10-5 shift every Thursday would be ideal for me to start with.

I’ve worked in retail before in the fashion sector, studied fashion at college some moons ago, and adore searching for bargains in thrift shops that I also donate to, so it’s right up my alley. The duties entail assisting customers, sorting through donations, steaming and labelling garments before they go on the rails and arranging the various displays of goods for sale.

The stock is rotated regularly, the window and mannequin displays updated often and we workers all pitch in with the various tasks. It’s been a joy to work with fellow volunteers and interact with the customers — pleased with their bargains, and it’s particularly satisfying knowing the proceeds are going to a worthy cause in helping homeless persons and Crisis’ campaign to end homelessness per se.

Crisis currently have 4 stores across London with plans to open more in the pipeline. The wonderful thing about Crisis is they offer education training and support to help get people back into employment, much of which is done through their Skylight Centre in central London. They even offer in-house retail training through their shops and barista/catering training through their cafes; one of which is located in their Finsbury Park shop, which I had the pleasure of visiting recently.

I am now considering volunteering with Crisis at Christmas at one their London centres. There are many ways volunteers can get involved and offer their skills or simply companionship during the festive period, and for my own self worth I would like to end this year spreading a bit of joy or simply my time to those far less fortunate. Indeed, I am blessed and in a good, warm place; yet am always aware that my circumstances could change for the worse.

It’s nice to see that the stigma of buying from charity shops as being untrendy has passed, and with many chains rebranding to give a more boutique shopping experience it is a marketplace attracting people from all backgrounds and ages and in many places — like Hackney, considered more hip.

It fits the growing social consciousness of being more resourceful — less wasteful, and working in one is great way to engage in the local community. For now, I feel I’ve found a good place to start rebuilding a new career of some sorts — even if it is sorting through one person’s junk to become another’s treasure. It will be my pleasure to support the Crisis cause for as long as I can. If you have some free time and fancy helping out, then take a look at their website for all the info on volunteering, their stores, plus lots of interesting information about their plight to end homelessness in the UK.