When Mary Hynes walked past what was then the Cerebral Palsy Ireland shop on Shop Street in Galway in 1993, her eye was drawn to a poster in the window. It said ‘Volunteers Wanted’. She wanted to go in and enquire but she hesitated. She loved fashion and shopping and had free time in the mornings before she taught music in the evenings. However, she didn’t have the confidence to go into the shop and say that she wanted to volunteer that day.
She went away and thought about it and plucked up the courage to go back another morning. The manager in the shop was short staffed and asked Mary to help our right away. Mary says “I started by steaming clothes in the back. I was really fast and good at that – I came from a big family so I was no stranger to hard work. After a few hours I needed to go but the manager asked me if I’d go back the next morning and so I began going in four mornings a week for three hours per morning.”
“Within a few weeks the Manager asked me to go on the shop floor – to do the till, keep the shop neat and help the customers. I was terrified of that – I had no confidence. I made a few mistakes but I got a lot of support and it did me the world of good. Very quickly I was sorting, pricing and training volunteers. I really took to it like a duck to water. I loved every minute of it and was so delighted that I was making a difference – what we were doing and the money we were making was doing some good and that felt good.”
After volunteering for about three years, there was a job opportunity for an Assistant Manager. “They asked me to apply for the job so I did and I got it! I was thrilled. I never thought my volunteering was going to lead to a job to be honest. I was still lacking in confidence a bit but shortly after I won Assistant Manager of the Year and it really boosted my confidence. There was no stopping me after that!”
“I went on to provide relief cover for managers and then in 2001 I applied for the position of Area Manager which means I’m in charge of 5 shops in the West of the country.”
“I still love my job 23 years after I started volunteering in what is now the Enable Ireland shop in Galway. My favourite thing about my job, and what I’m best at, is recruiting, retaining and mentoring volunteers. I know what volunteers feel like when they start here and I know what they can get out of it so I do love that side of my job particularly.”
“Volunteering has been great to me and I’d encourage anyone who wants a career in Retail to give it a try.”