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Clocks, Fast Fashion and how Volunteering for ellenor Gives Steve A New Challenge in Retirement

Steve Brown’s career certainly hasn’t taken a conventional path.

Starting out as an engineer, Steve’s role was to repair computers. From there, the Bexley local progressed to fixing banking systems, before another unexpected turn – into selling them. This soon blossomed into a thriving career in a string of increasingly high-pressure sales positions, in which Steve was responsible for hitting multi-million-pound targets.

Then, Steve’s professional journey took another turn. When one day, he realised – quite abruptly – that he was done.

Well, done with sales. Steve still wanted work to do – just work of a kind without unattainable targets or the constant push and pull of corporate politics. Work with an entirely different set of perks, including one few flashy white-collar roles can offer.

A purpose.

“Everyone said, ‘if you’re going to volunteer in a charity shop, go and do it with ellenor’,” Steve says. “ellenor is a well-regarded and well-known charity – it’s reliable, it’s local, and it does so much for the Bexley and Kent communities. It was an easy decision, really.”

That was five years ago. And today, Steve is still loving his role at the hospice charity’s Bexley charity shop – one of ellenor’s ten retail presences across Blackfen, Gravesend, Northfleet, Welling, and more. But just because Steve has remained a constant, that’s not to say his job has done the same – and the evolution of his role in Bexley shop parallels the ever-shifting course of his pre-ellenor career path.

Steve started at ellenor with simple tasks: unpacking bags and conducting basic quality control checks on the incoming stock. This came with its own learning curves, though.

His extensive technical expertise, gained from his engineering career, quickly proved invaluable. He moved from general tasks to specialising in portable appliance testing (PAT), a crucial role to ensure the safety and saleability of donated devices at ellenor’s Bexley shop.

Steve’s involvement goes beyond technical tasks. He is trained on the till, and sometimes spends shifts removing and restocking items from shelves on the shopfloor. (A place where Steve, a people person who loves chatting to customers, feels right at home.)

Steve’s role at ellenor, which he dedicates half a day each week to, also gives him a chance to indulge in his other beloved retirement hobby: clock repair. Restoring fast, slow, stopped, or damaged clocks is something Steve loves to do. And is also a pastime that ties into the charity shop’s role in sustainable shopping – something Steve is equally passionate about.

“With more people aware of and engaged with green issues, public perceptions around charity shops are changing,” says Steve. “You used to only see them as temporary things, to briefly fill vacant shops until the owners found something better to put there.

“Now, though, more and more people are recognising the important role charity shops have to play in combating fast fashion.”

Steve’s right. By keeping items which would otherwise be thrown away in circulation, charity shops like ellenor save local UK councils upwards of £31 million every year; and, in diverting 339,000 tonnes of clothing textiles from the scrapheap, prevent millions of tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions from entering Earth’s atmosphere.

“As a planet, we’re making too much stuff now,” Steve says. “And we need to start looking at charity shops. Apart from the fact that you’re recycling when you shop there and keeping the amount of clothes being manufactured in factories down, charity shops are also cheaper – and there’s always so much good stuff in them!”

As if to reaffirm this are the bargain hunters who, Steve claims, come from throughout the surrounding suburbs to dig for treasure at ellenor’s Bexley shop. While around three-quarters of their customer base are local, a few more have made the trip from Crayford and Dartford, with around one in ten are travelling from as far as Erith, or even further afield.

They come for the rare finds, the affordable prices, and – of course – the friendly, welcoming air Steve and his fellow volunteers create for shoppers. For deals so good, in fact, that they can’t be beaten. And you know the saying: if you can’t beat them, why not join them?

There are so many ways you can get involved to help ellenor raise the £7 million it needs every year to provide its services. Services that help and support people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, and their families, navigate the most challenging time they’ll ever face.


You can, for example, follow in Steve’s footsteps and volunteer in one of our shops – even, like him, for just half a day each week. Otherwise, you could sort through your wardrobe today, sort out any clothes you no longer want or need, and bring them to our store. If you have furniture to donate, we can even arrange to come pick it up from your house.

We also suggest getting online to find out what’s happening in your local area and explore the opportunities to support us: be it through playing our lottery, taking on a challenge to raise funds, or attending one of our local community events or activities

Want to delve deeper into charity shops’ evolving role in our local communities?

 Explore the retail-focused mini-series on ellenor’s own podcast series, Don’t Say the Word There, we unpack the environmental and social functions of the modern charity shop, discuss how perceptions around charity shops are changing fast, and go into detail around these shops’ impact on charities’ ability to raise all-important funds and awareness. Don’t miss it!