BLOG: You can’t judge a book by its cover: the inside scoop on volunteering

Kate VolunteeringFor many of us, a full-time job can be all consuming with little time for ourselves, let alone anything else.

But for one woman, in the wake of her mother’s death, leaving her high-flying career and starting volunteering was the best move for her own well-being.

Kate Warren has been volunteering for St Luke’s for the past four years. Starting off at our Plympton warehouse, she now splits her time between our bookshop on Plymstock Broadway and our Western Approach warehouse.

“I had never considered volunteering or the benefits of it, I was always stretched for time, but it made such a refreshing change,” she said.

Kate moved to Plymouth from London in 2004, studying at Plymouth University as a mature student. She went on to work at a maritime company for the next 9 years as a business analyst, conducting research and investigative work. This skillset has helped Kate find her feet within our Plymstock bookshop, becoming an encyclopaedia of knowledge for book browsers.

She said: “I have found it very beneficial to work in a bookshop, as the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. You get a diverse mix of customers, some ask for specific and obscure books, while others want more common ones. I end up with lists of books to find for people and get a real lift when I can find something people are looking for.”

The turning point for Kate came when her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was cared for by Trinity Hospice in London and after her death, the hospice provided support and grief counselling for Kate and her siblings. They put Kate in touch with her local hospice, to receive further support, which is when she first came across the wider organisation of St Luke’s, beyond our charity shops.

“I reached the point where there was no more job satisfaction. I was struggling to balance work and caring for my mother, until eventually I took a sabbatical and never looked back. Leaving my job was a big jump and was scary, but I soon found that there is life on the other side and an opportunity opened up for me.

“A notice for a volunteering open day for St Luke’s popped up on my Facebook one day and I knew it was a way I could give something back.”

Initially volunteering in our Plympton warehouse back in 2018, Kate now volunteers for three days a week in both our smallest and largest charity shops and is our resident book specialist, handpicking boxes of books to send out to several of our charity shops.

Kate volunteering

“It gives me so much job satisfaction and flexibility. Since volunteering, I feel like I have a purpose again. During lockdown when the shops were closed I also started helping at a food hub, which can sometimes get stressful, so it is nice to know the next day I will be sorting books. I’ve always been a fan of crime fiction, what is great is I am always getting recommendations from customers and discovering all sorts of curious books that come in.

“I feel my voluntary work is also helping me to keep my little grey cells active! Keeping a sharp mind is probably not something people give much consideration when thinking of retiring.”

It is not just Kate’s mental health that volunteering has impacted, her confidence has improved also.

“I wasn’t very outgoing before, but I have found working in the shop has meant I am talking to all sorts of interesting people and learning so much about the history of the area.

“When it comes to volunteering, I have found you get out what you put in. I wish I’d made myself more time when I was working to volunteer, but I am doing it now instead.

“I understand the pressures people are under, but I really encourage others to consider volunteering. It doesn’t have to be everyday, just now and again. It is all about finding your niche, finding what ticks your boxes. For me that is books.”

Kate volunteering

From working in our shops and warehouse, to helping out at our specialist unit or fundraising events, we are always on the lookout for volunteers. If you can spare some time to help us, then get in touch to find out about the opportunities available.