The Home-Start charity shop in Alloa, Clackmannanshire is no ordinary charity shop and the people that work there are no ordinary charity shop workers.

Walk through the doors and you'll find a holistic service that tackles loneliness, isolation and the cost of living crisis, all while upskilling young mums and dads so that they can learn a trade and find employment. In addition all profits go to providing activities for families in need, in the area.

The team of 12 volunteers who staff the shop, along with manager Sarah Gray, provide a warm welcome, a listening ear and a sense of community spirit to all who pass through their doors.

A safe haven 

At a time of financial hardship, when parents with little ones can’t afford to go to a café or take up an activity, they find a safe haven in this Home-Start shop.

Children who don’t have many toys at home are able to play with the toys and the volunteers talk to the mums so that they feel less isolated in their struggles.

If the volunteers think the parents might need additional support, they are able to introduce them to other Home-Start support.

It is the only charity shop in the area that specialises in children’s clothes and toys, and items are priced well below the fixed costs the national charity shops have to adhere to. In between serving customers, the team fulfil orders for the ‘Bairn Bank’. This is a service Home-Start Clackmannanshire has developed with local health visitors and social workers to provide free packs of items to families in need.

Mums supported by Home-Start now volunteer in the shop

Many of the shop volunteers are mums who have been supported by Home-Start. They volunteer to give something back to the charity who helped them, but also because the shop work enables them to gain valuable retail skills (with plans for this to become an accredited qualification) and achieve a reference for future employers. For mums like Jessica* who felt extreme isolation and struggled to leave her home, it has provided a lifeline and given her back her confidence.

At a time where families don’t know how they will afford to eat, heat, or pay their mortgage or rent, the shop is a beacon of warmth to all who come through its doors.

 *Name changed to protect identity

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