Karen Maris was working in a city warehouse when the pandemic struck and and she found herself furloughed.
But instead of wondering how to fill her suddenly free time, Karen decided to use the extra hours to become a St Luke's volunteer.
It is a decision that has changed her life and given her an entirely new career with a charity she loves.
And that is why she is now encouraging people to sign up to our special online volunteering event.
On Monday March 1, our Volunteer Team is hosting the online session to share all the exciting volunteer opportunities that are currently available.
Sign-up for the event will close on Friday February 26 and after then the team will email out invitations with a link to join the info session.
“Although I’d thought about volunteering, I’d never had much time, what with work and family commitments,” said 43-year-old Karen, who lives with her family in Richmond.
“When I was furloughed, though, I started to think much more about my future and the things I wanted to do.
“Being furloughed really made me review what I wanted and what my priorities were and it was when I went back work I knew that I wanted to be doing something that I enjoyed doing.”
St Luke’s had helped when Karen’s uncle was ill so she and her family knew the good work the charity does and the fact that the public’s support in vital to that work carrying on.
“I realised this was my time to volunteer so I applied to St Luke’s and started volunteering at the City Road shop,” she said.
“I hadn’t had any retail experience since I was a teenager but I loved it and there was no need to worry because the staff were all so helpful and happy to answer my questions.
“There were so many other things I learnt too - dealing with the system, learning how to process and price up items, all the things that made working in the shop really varied and enjoyable.”
Karen volunteered two afternoons every week and was happy to help out at other times if she was needed.
But what she never expected was that the City Road team would suggested that she should take a look at any job opportunities.
“I went home, had a look and saw the St Luke’s Donation Centre supervisor role available and because the closing date was the following day, I sent off my CV and covering letter straight away,” she said.
“That was Thursday and by Monday morning I got a phone call saying they wanted to interview me and by the following Monday I’d been offered the job!
“I can look back now and say volunteering really has changed my life because volunteering helped me into a job that I would never have thought was available and which I now love.
“It’s 100 per cent worth applying to be a volunteer because you get so much out of the experience and you are gaining so many skills without even realising it, either refreshing what skills you have or, like me, learning some new things.
“Volunteering gives you that feel good feeling, the knowledge that you’re helping the charity and also helping the people who are coming in to shop, especially in the times we are in at the moment.
“And even though I’m now working for St Luke’s at the Donation Centre I do want to carry on volunteering at City Road.
“I enjoy it so much and there are so many more skills I know I could pick up - and it’s a great way to give something back.”
To sing up for the online volunteering event simply visit St Luke's and follow the volunteer link.