COVID Pushing UK Charity Shops To Go Younger

National Citizen Service (NCS), a London-based program for young people in England and Northern Ireland, is urging participants to help staff the UK’s 9,500 charity shops as they reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown. The stores are due to start opening on June 15. Openings will be staggered throughout the United Kingdom.

Charity shops largely rely on volunteers, but these employees have traditionally been older citizens. As the coronavirus presents an increased risk of infection to older people, the Charity Retail Association (CRA), London, estimates roughly half of its older volunteers will not immediately be able to return to their positions.

The NCS is helping meet staffing needs by partnering with the CRA. Starting June 8, the organizations are urging young people to sign up for NCS’s One Million Hours of Doing Good, a nationwide post-coronavirus recovery program. NCS programs traditionally place people aged 16 or 17 in volunteer situations during the summer and autumn school breaks.

The Air Ambulance Service, a London-based organization that supports flying medical trauma teams to patients, and Barnardo’s, a children’s charity based in Essex, UK, will be among the first nonprofits to take advantage of the new source of volunteers.

“The age barrier of being under 18 should not hold back this huge group of young national citizens who are ready to play a valuable role in our country’s recovery,” NCS Trust CEO Mark Gifford said via a statement. “With many young people missing out on their planned work experience, volunteering will also provide an alternative route to develop essential life skills that can’t be learnt in a classroom environment.”

“Charity shops in the UK are losing customer sales of £3.4 million a day for their parent charities, yet are a much-loved part of the heart of High Streets up and down the country,” said CRA CEO Robin Osterley, via a statement. “With the involvement of young people, we can help ensure charity shops across the country are in the best possible position to reopen and thrive with a reinforced volunteer team. We know people have used the lockdown period to declutter their houses and we are expecting our members to be showered with stock as soon as they open their doors.”