The First Step to volunteering

Posted on the 2nd June 2018

I left work nearly four years ago after 28 years with local government, and following some health issues I decided, with a heavy heart, that maybe the time was right to embrace retirement. I certainly didn’t miss all the dashing around and stresses of full-time working but I did miss the day-to-day chat over a cup of tea with work colleagues, being part of a team and that sense of achievement when outcomes had been good. When I finished work I considered volunteering and even made some tenuous enquiries. However, the time commitment worried me and as the months went by I felt my confidence slipping away so I put the idea to the back of my mind. That was before I met the volunteers at First Step.

Taking the first step

Last summer, my husband was invited to a volunteers’ event as he helps out in our local library. There was a cup of tea on offer so I was convinced to go with him. As we were leaving the event I spotted two friendly faces and I was drawn towards the First Step stand. I was already aware of the wonderful work First Step provides to the community through my last job so it was a pleasure to go across and say hello. I walked away 10 minutes later having registered my interest to be a First Step volunteer with a feeling of apprehension.

I really shouldn’t have worried, because that chance encounter started my unexpected volunteer journey, and here I am now thoroughly enjoying the time I spend here.

It began with some gentle persuasion because I was convinced I would be more of a hindrance than a help. I was led patiently through the application process and when the time came for my first session, although feeling a little nervous, the welcome and help I received from the volunteers and staff soon made me feel at home.

A two-way exchange

Giving up a small part of my week to First Step has shown me that volunteering is a two-way exchange. I give a little but I get a lot back in return. The skills and knowledge gained from all those years working might be rusty, but I’ve discovered they are still there and useful to someone. In exchange, I feel I am back in a working environment that I enjoy, and no matter how small my contribution, there is a family being helped by First Step and that means a lot.

Every smile I see on a child’s face puts an even bigger one on mine.

As my confidence grows I am sure there will be other tasks I can help with and, no matter how small, if that helps the staff get on with their own important work then I feel I’ve played my part. In return, First Step has shown me that I’m not past a challenge even if it was mastering the telephone without cutting the caller off!

When I left work I found it very easy to believe that the only use I had was to be there for my family. That is still my priority but to know I can offer something back to the community through First Step is just as precious to me. So, thank you First Step.

If you would like to find out more about how to volunteer with First Step, visit: http://www.firststep.org.uk/

Sally Garlick

Sally has been volunteering with First Step since September 2017 in an admin/reception support role.

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