Paul Moffatt started at Furniture Mine 15 years ago as a volunteer – a role he opted for after finding himself homeless and living on the streets in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Paul knows all too well how valuable volunteering is and also, how important essential furniture can have a real positive impact on someone’s life. Here Paul talks to BabaBaboon about his journey, which now sees him working as Sales Co-ordinator at Emmaus Furniture Mine, in Hanley.
“It was New Year’s Eve 2004 and I ended up homeless. I had no idea what I was going to do. I was sleeping on the streets in Hanley and wasn’t in the best of health at the time. I had recently had surgery on my knee and sleeping out in the freezing cold was not helping, it was not a good time,” Paul says.
Paul made a decision to contact the Salvation Army and found shelter which then led to him offering to volunteer at Furniture Mine – a charity reuse shop which was owned by a local housing association at the time.
“I went to Furniture Mine thinking it would give me something to do, as I was hungry for work and wanted to learn. They sent me on a PAT testing course when I started and from there I went on to do every volunteer role available,” says the 59-year-old.
Some months down the line, Paul had not only been offered his own flat by a local authority, but he was also offered a full time paid role at the shop.
“When I started volunteering I never thought I’d have continued to work with Furniture Mine at the time. When I was first offered the flat after being homeless, Furniture Mine helped me with furniture, which I really appreciated. Furniture is so valuable and so important for that first step towards feeling like you have a home,” Paul adds.
“If you haven’t got any furniture you have not got a home really. Having furniture – like a bed, or a settee – all helps. Just think if you had no furniture and you were in an empty flat, it can really get to you, and it could spiral into other things and even losing a tenancy with someone. So the value of furniture itself is so important for so many reasons.”
When Paul started at Furniture Mine the charity worked alongside local housing authorities and other organisations throughout Staffordshire providing a referral system in helping with the donation or sale of affordable furniture. This is something which continued when charity Emmaus North Staffs acquired the reuse charity shop in 2017 and Paul is now one of the main decision makers when it comes to identifying and selling products.
“I have studied a lot over the years and as well as working with volunteers and helping to run the shop floor, I take a lot of time looking into the goods which arrive,” he says.
“We have so many different items which come in and I really enjoy looking into the antique finds we receive as donations. Product knowledge is so important and we have had some interesting pieces of furniture through our hands. It’s my job to look for that holy grail.”
“Paul is brilliant at what he does,” says John Webbe, Emmaus North Staffs Executive Lead and manager of Furniture Mine. “He has so much knowledge and he shares that with our volunteers, staff and customers which is great.”
Apart from discovering “hidden gems” Paul stresses, it is not always about the donation of a valuable item into the charity store, but the value behind the furniture itself for someone.
“Furniture is so important for someone who is just starting out or someone who needs some support. I understand all of that as I have been there,” he adds.
“At Emmaus Furniture Mine we work with other organisations throughout Staffordshire and help to provide affordable furniture. Our furniture does not have to be expensive but the quality does have to be high and that’s what we provide.”
Emmaus Furniture Mine is the largest furniture and household charity shop in North Staffordshire. As well as furniture the shop also has white goods, household items, clothing, records and much more on offer. The large shop is based at Cannon Place in Hanley and is open to the public six days a week. If you would like to volunteer at Emmaus Furniture Mine please read more HERE
Please mention BabaBaboon when you contact Emmaus North Staffs & Emmaus Furniture Mine.