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RNLI in Wales sends out SOS for shop volunteers

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The RNLI is looking for new shop volunteers to join its lifesaving team across the country.

The lifesaving charity is looking in particular to boost support at a number of locations across the country including Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, the Vale of Glamorgan and Swansea.

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Just like the charity’s lifeboats, the RNLI’s retail team need a dedicated volunteer crew -people of all ages and abilities – who can give a little time to help save lives at sea.

Deb Blackburne who volunteers at the RNLI shop in Rhyl says: “Living by the coast for most of my life you get to know that the sea is important.

“By volunteering in the RNLI shop, I’ve got to work and meet some incredible people from all walks of life and I’ve seen how important the sea is to people not just those that live by it.

“The RNLI is an important part of the community in Rhyl and it has a long history with it and when you see the lifeboat come back from shout, you see how much it means to people and I am glad that I can help be part of that.”

Deb Blackburne and a team of volunteers at Rhyl RNLI (Image: RNLI)

Bill Kitchen is a volunteer shop manager at the RNLI Barry Island Visitor Centre and Shop – one of the UK’s first ever RNLI drowning prevention visitor centres. Volunteering at the shop also inspired him to become a Deputy Launching Authority at the nearby station.
Bill is responsible for looking after the shop’s volunteer crew, organising rotas, banking and ensuring all the products are properly displayed.

He says: “I retired in 2015 and wondered what I might do. I walked past the RNLI shop before it was the great visitor centre it is today. To volunteers said they were looking for more volunteers, I thought they were absolutely super and virtually signed up on the spot.

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“I absolutely love volunteering in the shop and being part of the RNLI. When I put on my RNLI shirt, I feel very proud. I get a tremendous amount of pleasure in helping people and chatting to customers.”

RNLI shops started out as simple cake stalls run by volunteers to raise money for their local lifeboat station.

“These stalls started selling official commemorative RNLI products for our 1924 centenary and quickly moved on to selling souvenirs and Christmas cards. Stalls then grew into community shops at our stations and we started to standardise the look and feel of our shops from 1990 onwards.” Catherine Jones, RNLI Community Manager for North Wales explains.

“The pandemic unfortunately hit our shops hard as they closed for periods of time in line with Covid-19 restrictions. We were delighted when we could reopen them safely in accordance with government guidance and are looking forward to welcoming our visitors in 2022. To do this successfully, we want to grow our team of shop volunteers and are looking for people who enjoy interacting with others, can help us to provide a high level of customer service and ensure our shops continue to be friendly and welcoming places.”

To find out more about how you can help generate vital funds, promote the work of the RNLI, and apply, visit the RNLI’s website.

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Lead image: Bill Kitchen at Barry Dock RNLI (Image: RNLI)

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