Bringing our shop windows to life
After a shoulder injury forced her to quit her job as a teaching assistant, volunteer Stephanie Attwood decided to use the creative skills she honed in her early career to give something back.
“This has brought so much to my life, I’m happier than I have been in years,” said Stephanie Attwood, 49, a Retail Volunteer at our charity shop in Marlborough, Wiltshire.
The mum-of-two is a window dresser, and her creative eye and attention to detail are essential in getting people through the doors of the shop – and, in turn, bringing in vital funds for pets in need.
It’s a role that she’s completely at home in - Stephanie had worked in retail in her early career before going on to become a teaching assistant after having children.
But when a frozen shoulder, which needed two operations, left her unable to return to the classroom, she looked to start volunteering with Blue Cross. And she couldn't believe it when she found a role that suited her so brilliantly.
“I looked at where my skill set would fit, and I noticed that there was a role at the Marlborough shop. It was perfect for me, and it only takes me 45 minutes to get there so wasn’t too far,” Stephanie, who has been in the role for a year, said.
“In my youth I used to work in retail as a window dresser and doing all the visual merchandising, so I thought I could bring these skills into my volunteering at the Marlborough shop.
“My manager is lovely and just gives me the window so I can do my art.
“I do have other bits to do, but I mainly concentrate on the windows. I go in on a Monday and Friday morning and have a rummage about to see what we have had in, looking for ideas.
“For example, this week we went with a Glastonbury theme as we have that festival coming up, so we filled the window with hippy-style clothes.
“I go in on a Monday and, as it’s after the weekend, the display from the Friday has hopefully been savaged. I redo the display and then I go back on Friday to dress it for the weekend.”
Not only does Stephanie’s volunteering role match her talents and creative passion, it also complements her family life.
“I have two children, aged 14 and 16, so doing a couple of days a week is perfect. It fits in with being a mum.
“And it’s great because you’re using your skills and meeting amazing people at the same time as giving something back. It’s uplifting and so rewarding.
"It’s lovely because customers do come in and chat to you and say: ‘Oh, I love that, or I like this’. You get a rapport going with them and it just makes you feel good.”
Conversation is also quick to turn to pets, as Stephanie is the proud owner of two dogs, a cat and a cockatiel.
Encouraging others to consider volunteering, she added: “If you have some spare hours and you want to give something back, I couldn’t recommend volunteering with Blue Cross enough. I love the whole ethos and history of the charity.”