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I never looked back after I started volunteering with Mind, I’ve been given opportunity after opportunity to develop

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 Ruth

Ruth shares their journey from volunteer to Area Manager.

When did you start volunteering?

I started volunteering towards the end of 2002. I had just been made redundant from Sports Division, and I got bored quickly of not being in work. I lived in South Shields at the time, so popped into the town centre to check out the charity shops so I could volunteer.

I visited all the shops on the high street. There were 5 at the time. I chose Mind as I remember going in and the manager was on the shop floor, a volunteer on the till, and they were having such a laugh with each other and the customers, it had the best atmosphere of them all, and I thought yep, this is the one.

I had no idea who Mind was, or what they worked towards. 20 years ago mental health was still a taboo topic. I was there for about 3 months as a volunteer, working 4 days a week. My manager at the time, Bernice, must have seen some potential in me as she trained me up to the level of a manager, opening and closing the shop, cashing up, banking, and being key holder.

How has volunteering changed over time?

The early days were very different from now. We didn’t have shop computers! Nor the daily workings sheet, which back then was a duplicate pad. The till had ink ribbons we had to change. We didn’t Gift Aid. That was introduced in 2008. It was like a different world 20 years ago. It’s been amazing and heart-warming to see the changes. 

How has volunteering helped you in your current role?

I never looked back after I started volunteering with Mind. I’ve been given opportunity after opportunity to develop and progress. I went from volunteer to assistant manager, to relief manager, to retail trainer, to shop manager.

I’ve helped open countless shops, refits, dual sited, seconded as regional manager, managed a high turnover city centre shop, and progressed to area manager.

I have worked not only in different regions, but different divisions, and best of all, met fabulous people. I’ve also spent quality time over the years with Karen Longstaff, people development manager for the North, who has helped enormously with my development.           

Is there anything you would say to someone who wanted to start volunteering at Mind?

Do it! It’s not only a brilliant, supportive, and important charity to raise money for, but also a fantastic career path to follow, with fantastic people who will help and support you along the way.

I wouldn’t change any of my history with Mind, the charity has been an integral part of my life and who I am now.

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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.

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