Most people love a visit to a charity shop and despite the current struggles on the British high street, many charities still rely on their shops as a must needed fundraising tool.

Here at Strode Park Foundation, it is no different and we are pleased to have two lovely shops, one in Herne Bay and one in neighbouring Tankerton, which are both run by a fantastic team of volunteers and both sell a variety of items donated by local people.

Our Herne Bay charity shop however also has a totally different additional function to the usual fundraising aspect: providing a valuable work experience outlet for our Day Opportunities service users.

Strode Park Foundation: Retail Therapy

Day Opportunities is our day service for people with a physical and/or learning disability and is open to all ages. Independence is a key theme for us so work experience makes up a big part of the programme. At our Herne Bay shop, service users are given the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of running a shop – from delivering and collecting stock, window and shop displays, banking and sorting the donations. We also give our service users the opportunity to complete their ASDAN certificate – a course that develops skills for learning, work and life. Amongst other things, this gives them an enormous sense of achievement and a real goal to work towards.

The comments from our service users really speak for themselves:

“Working at the charity shop has allowed me to complete my ASDAN certificate which is great for my own personal development and it has helped me with my communication skills by interacting with customers”

 “I feel part of the team and it has helped me learn why teamwork is important. I also get to boss my carer around for the day! I really enjoy doing the window display and choosing the outfits” 

“I like sorting clothes, interacting with staff, going to the shop and get a lot of enjoyment from window dressing. I like dressing the mannequins in dresses, hats, jewellery and just being on the shop floor and interacting with customers. I have gained confidence and a sense of achievement being active in volunteering – giving back to Strode”  

 “I feel happy. It’s really good fun. It helps me concentrate. I like helping Strode Park. It makes me feel I’ve done something important” 

 “It makes me feel happy. Working on the till makes me feel I can do something. Opening the door for people makes me feel good”

As well as being a fantastic work experience resource, the other benefit of this scheme is that our community links are strengthened due to the fact that they can see firsthand the work that we do. Customers have made many positive comments on the scheme and the other shop volunteers have said that they really enjoy the opportunity to work alongside the service users and have a greater understanding of what Strode Park Foundation does.

Our message is that ‘Everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential and live life the way they choose’ and with this scheme, there is no doubt that this is clear for all to see.

(Written by Christina Jones, Fundraiser at Strode Park Foundation)