MARTIN DE RUYTER/Stuff
ReStore Nelson director Rebekah Wyatt said the number of volunteers had fallen by a quarter in the past few months.
With aging staff vulnerable to Omicron, operations stores are struggling to fill shifts and are calling for new volunteers to come forward.
ReStore Nelson director Rebekah Wyatt said the drop in volunteer staff had been “dramatic”.
She said the number of volunteers had fallen by around a quarter in recent months.
Wyatt said she was worried because many of the volunteers were in the age range where they could get very sick from catching Covid-19.
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She said the average age of the volunteers was around 65, although three were over 85.
“Most of them just want to keep going and keep going. They don’t want to lock themselves up and hide, but we are constantly reminded that we need to do what we can to protect them.
They had also temporarily lost staff due to the opening of borders, as volunteers left to visit family in Australia or the UK.
While business in the store was quieter than usual, with fewer staff to run the store, there was no slowdown.
BRADEN FASTER / TRICK
Nelson Tasman Hospice stores are looking for more volunteers as some people are pulling out due to the current Covid situation.
“There is always more work to do in an operations store than there is time to do. We’re just not doing our job, it’s as simple as that. The stock isn’t really going out or being treated like it usually would.
“It’s been very difficult lately.”
Behind every item sold, she said, were “hours of labor,” sorting, processing, storing and displaying.
Some volunteers chose to come in and work only away from the public in the back, she said.
When customers entered certain small spaces without masks, such as the shipping container behind the store with free items, staff felt “really uncomfortable.”
“There are a lot of people who genuinely have (mask) exemptions, but there are a lot of people who just refuse to wear them and say they have an exemption. We are not allowed to ask whether they do or not.
She called for new volunteers to come forward, even though it was one day a year.
“Everything is useful. Don’t get discouraged because you feel you have to commit. If you’re willing to help out, there’s always something to do.
Donna Lambert, Retail Operations Manager in St Vincent de Paul, manages three operating stores in Nelson, Stoke and Richmond.
Lambert said stores required customers to wear masks for the protection of volunteers, who were vulnerable due to their age, and also to protect any compromised family members.
Foot traffic, she said, has halved.
“There aren’t many buyers around, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be open. We must be open, this goes for all retail businesses. If our stores aren’t open, we can’t earn money to reinvest in the community. »
Lambert also experienced a marked drop in staff because of Omicron.
She described her volunteers as “hardworking and dedicated people” who had to work extra shifts, a situation that was unsustainable.
She would like to see young people come forward. Volunteering was good for their CV, they gained retail experience, helped a charity and were able to make friends as a result, she said.
Lambert said she was looking for drivers, merchandisers, sorters, store workers and “social media champions.”
STACY SQUIRES / TRICKS
Thrive Curate is an online store selling donated clothing and homewares, with all proceeds going to the Christchurch City Mission.