Liz Thompson was diagnosed with MS in 2009. While looking for information to help her make sense of her condition, she discovered the MS Trust website. She very soon became one of our most passionate supporters (and as result has developed a new career as a cake baker!). One of the ways she supports the work of the MS Trust is by volunteering every year at her local Cards For Good Causes shop. We asked her what motivates her to volunteer, and what she gets out of working in the shop.
I think I've been volunteering for the MS Trust in a Card for Good Causes shop for five years now. I think it was 2010 when I first started. I love it, absolutely love it.
For me now, spending some time volunteering in the shop, it's part of my build up to Christmas. It's the thing that makes me feel that Christmas is coming! Like many people with MS, I don't go out shopping that often because I can find it really disorientating. Particularly when it's busy at Christmas: it's just too much. So to have the experience of being in the card shop, that's my Christmas experience of shopping. It's just lovely.
In the shop I work in, I'm serving at the till. The way that we work, there's two of us there. You're partnered up with someone you may or may not know, which is nice. And between us we work the till and serve the customers. There are seats there, so we generally do two to three stints and you can sit down if you want. There's some tidying up to do, depending on how mobile you are.
What have I gained from volunteering at the shop? I can think of a few things…
Since I first started doing some fundraising for the MS Trust, I love getting involved in fundraising or supporting, because I think it's just really rewarding. And knowing that you're doing it for some benefit – it makes you feel good.
It's also great to feel involved in the community. Most of these shops are really a central part of the local community, so you get to see a lot of people coming in. They can be people you get chatting to that you didn't know or people that you do know and haven't seen for a while, which is lovely. It's really sociable.
And also, of course, meeting people who you're working with as well. There are people I've worked with and kept in touch with, and who, subsequently, come to the annual fundraising fete that I hold for the MS Trust.
The other thing, which is particularly relevant to me, is that with my MS, I found I wasn't going out very much, because it's very difficult to go out on my own. So I was finding I was only going out with my husband, which can be quite isolating when he's at work. And the shop felt like a very safe place to go. You can park outside and you don't have to do any walking round or standing, but you still get the social aspect of meeting and talking to people.
What would I say to someone who was considering volunteering? I'd say definitely go for it! If you're thinking "I'm not quite sure about it," well then ask the shop manager for just one shift. Then once you've tried it, it may be that either you could volunteer for some more sessions later in the same season, or it might give you the experience to have more confidence and more motivation to do it the next year. I would definitely recommend volunteering to everyone. Everybody who volunteers at our shop, they've all got their own reasons for doing it, and they all enjoy it too. There's a lot of people who've been doing it for years and years. And I certainly intend to be doing it in several years as well. It's great.