This is a difficult financial climate to come off benefits and find employment, when individuals may have neither employment history nor qualifications. BADSUF identified that some people wanted to obtain volunteer placements, and we proposed to open up a charity shop so that these individuals could build on their employment experience in a safe and contained environment.
The proposal was put forward to the local DAAT, and it was agreed that it would be pump-primed by the DAAT and BADSUF with the aim of it becoming self-funding over time. We looked at areas and decided on Boscombe for a variety of reasons, and the Boscombe Regeneration Partnership identified a number of key priorities to focus on – housing, employment and enterprise, environment, crime, health, education and attainment. We felt that we could help to meet some of these priorities by having the shop in this location.
The shop was sourced (which took a lot of hard work behind the scenes), refurbished and launched in February 2012 by the mayor of Bournemouth. We held open days and a volunteer day, as well as joining the Charity Retail Association and the Bournemouth Chamber of Commerce so that we could ‘mingle’ not just in retail arenas, but also with local business.
We made links with local businesses and schools, and received donations from a lovely group of schoolchildren. We also set up an eBay account and Facebook page to promote the shop.
As part of the BADSUF team we have Margo Benjafield, Nigel Seal and Jackie Twine, all doing different roles but primarily promoting the shop and volunteering opportunities.
We’re lucky to have Caz Anderson as our charity shop/volunteer coordinator as she has vast experience in retail, treatment settings and managing and developing volunteers. Caz started with BADSUF in May and has worked very hard, and because of her enthusiasm and passion we now have 15 amazing, dedicated and hard-working volunteers from all walks of life and whose ages range from 21 to 72. This has created a diverse and eclectic bunch of people who offer a variety of fantastic skills.
Claire, a BADSUF volunteer, said of the shop, ‘I have worked in charity shops before, but none so dedicated to their cause as this one. It does exactly as is said on the tin! The shop is the first point of call for many in the dark about the right channels to go down to better their lives, and it is truly a privilege to work here. The atmosphere is relaxed and happy – we love what we do.’
Another volunteer, Kaye, added, ‘Having had a really chaotic lifestyle due to my addiction, and having been through the treatment “cycle” many times, I really found it difficult to fit in anywhere. I struggled to find a purpose in my life. Now I have a reason to get up every morning. I feel I have regained my confidence and self-esteem. I feel I am part of a team, a little community working with like-minded people.’
A typical day at the shop includes sorting out stock donations into relevant piles, steaming and hanging clothes, and then putting the stock out on the shop floor in order and in themes. Creating interesting and eye-catching window displays is also important, as we have a double-fronted shop.
Cleaning, tidying and customer service are a part of the daily routine, as well as giving out relevant information and leaflets and just enjoying being part of our little community – and taking turns to make a nice cup of tea to keep us all going. We have a real giggle at times too.
We have lots of returning local customers as the shop has a lovely atmosphere and is spacious, having been decorated stylishly by a local painter and decorator, John Gater. Customers have said it has a ‘beautiful aura’, and we all agree.
We would like thank Bournemouth DAAT, as well as countless others, for supporting us, and Action on Addiction SHARP Bournemouth Working Recovery for making and designing our sign. We welcome anyone who is interested to come along – just get in touch via the BADSUF website, or contact Caz, Julia or Jackie. There are lots of innovative ideas still being worked on behind the scenes so watch this space!
Julia Dixon-Large is the charity manager of BADSUF, www.badsuf.com