The Phab Shop - Helping people of all abilities enjoy life

By Elliot Green

08 Apr 19

The Phab Shop, one of this month's featured Wonderful charities is a charity shop with a difference! They run like any other charity shop, taking in donations and selling on, but the shop also provides volunteering opportunities to people with disabilities, learning difficulties and mental health issues.

Over 95% of The Phab Shop's volunteers have some form of additional need that has had an impact on their confidence and working lives. At the Phab Shop the aim is to change that impact by boosting confidence and skills in a relaxed working environment.

The Phab Shop provides the community with a self-sustainable social enterprise that is run by volunteers with some form of additional need to gain experience, training and qualifications in the retail sector. The project gives the volunteers the opportunity to take control of their lives by giving them the confidence and ability to become an employable and productive member of any workforce. We asked Jenny (the founder of The Phab Shop) a bit more about the amazing work they do.

What a great name, how did ‘The Phab Shop’ come about?

"The Phab Shop was started in 2012 by myself, Jenny. I started volunteering for Southend Junior Phab (a youth club for children with and without disabilities) when I was 14 as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, and never left! I could see first-hand how support and opportunities for people with additional needs dropped dramatically once a young person reached 16/18 years of age. Reducing these opportunities lead to less opportunities for socialising and therefore an increased risk of isolation and a low sense of self-worth. This can have a huge impact on a person’s mental health, wellbeing and confidence. I wanted to change that by providing as many opportunities as possible, to as many people as possible, without relying on funding to continue running.

Running a charity shop seemed the best idea that would create the most impact. Having never worked in retail or running a business or having any funding, I started The Phab Shop with crossed fingers and a credit card. Within the first year we were running, self-funded, purely through the income of the shop. Today we have over 30 volunteers, with over 95% having additional needs, needing various levels of support from one-to-one support to support being on hand when needed. Last year we had two of our volunteers move onto full time paid employment!"

Are there any notable fundraisers supporting you at the moment?

"Our two current fundraisers are two volunteers of The Phab Shop, both Kelsey and Rachel have additional needs that affect their coordination. They have both been involved with The Phab Shop from very early on and are always thinking of ways to boost the shop, they are two very dedicated volunteers! Swimming a mile is hard for most people but taking on this challenge with the difficulties they face just shows their enthusiasm, dedication and perseverance!"

If you asked your volunteers and customers, what would they say the best

thing is about your shop?

"Not to gloat! But we often get so many positive comments about our shop, from our window displays, low prices and range of items, but I think the comments we’re most proud of is how welcoming and friendly our shop is, everyone gets on so well and our volunteers often refer the shop as just one big family."

As well as providing such valuable experiences for volunteers, what does The Phab Shop do with the proceeds from donations/sales?

"Outside of the shop, we have regular meet ups where all the volunteers get together to have a meal out, another opportunity to help build confidence and social skills. We run a craft group and are currently arranging some other evening activities. We also have a team building day booked at Stubbers adventure centre in July that we hope to make a regular occurrence. We currently have a waiting list for people to volunteer and have now really outgrown our shop so we now are looking at ways we could expand and increase opportunities."

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever had donated to the shop for resale?

"It is amazing what people donate to charity shops from weird, wonderful and sometimes rude items! (I won’t go into detail!) We had a big donation of jewellery once, the donator was moving and just wanted to have a big clear out… it turned out to be all silver and gold! We also had just over $1000 old American dollars donated, it was found in a handbag, but we could never trace the owner, we do try and reunite items that may have been donated in error and most of the time we are successful but this time it went in the charity pot!"

What led you to register your charity on the Wonderful platform?

"I just loved the ethos of the Wonderful platform. We are a small charity and every penny counts, to know that there are wonderful people out there who get that and help us little charities do what we do, is just… Wonderful!"

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