“It’s amazing what people donate. I sort the toys out, children’s books and all of the children’s clothing. I love working in the shop. I do work out the back now, but I’ve worked in the shop for years,” says Sandra.

Because of this, Sandra feels a strong connection to the wider world of Red Cross. Quite often in the store she’ll share news with customers about what Red Cross is doing in New Zealand and around the world. She’s proud to know that through volunteering she’s contributing to this work.

She was introduced to Red Cross by a friend and joined the Kamo Branch, where she was secretary for many years as well as being involved in Meals on Wheels and other community activities.

Sandra relocated to New Zealand after a career as sewing machinist in England, where while working in at a small factory in Peterborough she created uniforms for not only the Red Arrows (the Royal Air Force's aerobatics display team), but also for pilots’ costumes in the first Star Wars film.

Sandra sorting through donations in the stock room at the Red Cross Shop in Whangarei. 

Her practical nature is well known to her fellow volunteers. If something needs to be done, such as fixing the till, it’s a good bet that Sandra can do it.

Throughout her time at the shop she’s enjoyed working with a “really good mix” of older and younger people.

“When I was working on a Saturday, I used to have a lot of young people working with me and I taught them how to operate the till and how to interact with customers.”

Sandra says those customers include some real characters, another thing she enjoys about volunteering in the shop.

“There’s one lady and she’ll come in all dressed up. She’s a got her hat on. She’s a real regular. She’s quite a laugh at times. Quite often she’ll come back in wearing an item she’s made alterations on.”

It’s clear Sandra finds a lot of joy in her role and is quick to encourage others to get involved.

“It’s a nice place to work. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. We’ve had some really good people come in and I’ve made lots of friends through it.”

When asked how long she sees herself volunteering for Red Cross, Sandra’s quick to respond: “as long as I can”.

“I think because of what Red Cross stands for. We’re helping millions of people, not just a few.”

Get involved

Volunteering in a Red Cross Shop is a great way to gain retail experience while supporting our work in your community. Find out more: redcross.org.nz/get-involved/volunteer-opportunities/red-cross-shop-volunteer/