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Husband and wife start new chapter with volunteer roles

7 June 2024

Our Harborne superstore, Reloved Brum, prides itself on being a charity shop like no other – which means the range of opportunities for our valued volunteers is greater than ever before.

Seven months after opening, there are some 45 volunteers on board – including shop floor and stock assistants, but also more specialist roles such as merchandisers, a seamster, a social media expert, and book and vinyl specialists.

Husband and wife team Stephen and Wendy Simmons are responsible for keeping the popular book department running smoothly – keeping the shelves well-stocked, arranging displays and helping customers with queries.

Wendy had previously worked as a nurse with our predecessor organisations Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice and John Taylor Hospice, whereas John had a career in finance, but having worked in very different careers, they made the decision to volunteer together after they retired.

Stephen said: “We got to the stage where we’d both retired and wanted to occupy our time – we felt as though it was nice having fun but we needed to volunteer and give something back.”

Wendy added: “We wanted to do something different; something we hadn’t done before, and neither of us had worked in retail, so it’s a nice challenge, but we do buy books from charity shops ourselves, so felt we knew what customers look for, what works and what doesn’t.”

They started work in October 2023, not long after the store opened, and what was initially a once a week commitment soon went up to two days in order to keep up with the rapid turnover of stock in the department.

Stephen and Wendy ensure our shelves are kept well-organised, so shoppers can find books easily, as well as creating eye-catching displays to show our stock at its best.

Stephen said: “If you put out a nice display, it’s amazing how much that attracts attention and then actually sells the books. We’ll take a book off the shelf that might have been there for about 10 days, put it in a display, and then it goes.”

Despite the Harborne store being the largest in our chain, Stephen and Wendy said they enjoyed the opportunity to chat with our customers and offer them a personal service.

Wendy said: “You do get some regulars, which perhaps you wouldn’t expect so much in a store of this size, but there are people who we recognise, and who come up say hello and engage with us because they’ve recognised that we’re here every week.”

Stephen added: “Sometimes we might pop to the café for a break and people will walk past with books they’re buying and we’re always pleased to see that. When we come back after a few days and there are empty shelves, we think that’s good news because it means our books are selling well!”

See our current volunteering opportunities at Birmingham Hospice.