Bay of Plenty Times journalists are volunteering up to a day's labour for local charities then profiling these organisations in a feature story as part of the series The Bay of Plenty Times Gives Back. Today, Sandra Conchie writes about working at the Tauranga Salvation Army store.

Anaru Samuel is helping sort donated pieces of furniture at Tauranga Salvation Army store.

The 47-year-old solo father has been a volunteer at the store for the past five years.

Before that he was a client of the Community Ministries social services arm of the organisation.

Tauranga Salvation Army Store volunteer Anaru Samuel credits the organisation with helping him turn his life around. PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK
Tauranga Salvation Army Store volunteer Anaru Samuel credits the organisation with helping him turn his life around. PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK

"It was my desire to change my former lifestyle involving drugs and alcohol, which brought me here in the first place. Then I asked the Community Ministries if they had a job and they gave me a couple of hours' cleaning work and ultimately that led to me volunteering five days a week."

Mr Samuel, who credits the organisation with helping him make "a fresh start", said his volunteer work was his way of giving back for the help he was given.

"I also love working here. Everyone is so friendly and non-judgmental and it gives me the chance to socialise with other people as well," he said.

Mr Samuel is one example of the many success stories as the Army continues its mission to help people in need in our community despite limited government funding.

The organisation provides both practical aid and spiritual support.

Many of its clients live from pay to pay or their next benefit payment.

The organisation's two Bay charity stores - the Tauranga City Family Store in Cameron Rd and Greerton Family Store in Chadwick Rd - play a major role in funding the free social service programmes it offers 2000-plus people each year.

I got the chance to spend the day volunteering at the Tauranga store on Thursday as part of the Bay of Plenty Times' Gives Back series.

I'm welcomed with open arms by Tauranga Salvation Army Corps business manager Graham Wood and the team of staff and volunteers, including Mr Samuel working in the drop-off warehouse.

I'm set to work helping put away donated items, reordering the clothing, and tidying up the shelves. I find it's a full-time job especially after hundreds of customers have rifled through the racks.

Colour co-ordinating the unisex clothing is even more difficult - but it was a fun task.

I never realised how many different shades of grey there were in the colour spectrum.

Mr Wood tells me 90 per cent of the money needed to fund the Tauranga Community Ministries social services was raised through the charity stores and recycling of some donated goods.

"We try to sell or recycle as much as we are able to, including recycling cardboard, metal, plastics. We also have a rag-cutting machine and sell clean rags to local businesses, including motor vehicle dealers. Our aim is to try and send the bare minimum to the landfill," he said.

Bales of clothing that cannot be sold through the stores are sent to a recycling centre in Palmerston North and exported to the Pacific islands, I'm told.

Mr Wood says every dollar raised goes to fund the Salvation Army's free community social services. These include distributing food parcels, paying social workers and counsellors, running life skills courses and "Positive Lifestyle" programmes.

Thirty people work at the Tauranga store, the majority are volunteers, and between 14,000 to 15,000 volunteer hours had been provided across both stores over the past 12 months.

Volunteers come from all walks of life and so do its customers, of which I am one.

Today, even the well-heeled are shopping at Salvation Army stores to snap up bargains especially donated designer-label and brand- name clothing and other goods.

Mr Wood said he was always amazed how generous some people were in donating goods.

"Sometimes we get completely new stuff donated and estate lots, but the Salvation Army has always been in the help profession and we have a reputation for being there in times of need."

My Gives Back day has left me with a fuller appreciation of the work of Tauranga Salvation Army and the effort it takes to raise much needed funds to carry on its charity work.

Its volunteer workforce is the lifeblood of its fundraising efforts and the organisation is always looking for more volunteers, even someone who can spare a couple of hours.

I'd like to say thank you to community gems such as Anaru Samuel and the other volunteers who selflessly give of their time each week, and together with Mr Wood and his team make a huge difference in our community.

Being an avid reader, rest assured I did not leave the store empty-handed and snapped up another book to add to my huge collection.