A CHARITY shop has launched a desperate appeal for volunteers after seeing their workforce dwindle by almost two thirds because of the pandemic.

The popular Barnardo's store in Peartree Road, Stanway, previously had a team of almost 60 hardy souls who give up their time.

But the numbers have dropped dramatically since lockdown with just 20 people remaining.

The majority of people who decided not to return were older supporters who are still isolating as much as possible to lessen the risk of contracting coronavirus.

Others who have left are younger volunteers who have headed off to university.

Store manager Sue Redgate said it was understandable why the numbers had dwindled but they needed all the help they could get.

She said: “We completely understand why so many of our volunteers are choosing to remain at home and we look forward to welcoming them back whenever they’re ready.

“In the meantime we continue to keep in touch with many of them on a regular basis to check they’re OK.

“However, we still receive hundreds of bags of donations every week and therefore we need to recruit as many helping hands as possible.

“Every hour is sincerely appreciated.”

Volunteers can help with arranging window displays, styling mannequins, replenishing stock or serving customers at the till.

Safety measures have been put in place for all members of the team, including aprons, gloves, masks and hand sanitisers.

Sue added: “Volunteering is a great way to make new friends and learn new skills, together with gaining important qualifications and experience which can help in the search for work.

“Some use it as a stepping stone to employment while others simply enjoy the social aspect – we have people aged from their teens to their 80s and they all get along together really well.

“Whatever their reasons for joining us, they’re helping to provide a positive future to disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.”

Anyone interested in giving up their time should call 01206 570870 or visit barnardos.org.uk/volunteer-shop.

The store opens and offers a wide range of clothes, books, DVDs and other items, with lots of discounts and special offers with cash going to help the country's most vulnerable children.

Customers are asked to wear a face covering, respect social distancing and pay by contactless where possible, with protective plastic screens at the till.