82-year-old marks ten year anniversary of volunteering with Leeds homeless charity Emmaus

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When retired pensioner Peter Talbot decided to start volunteering at an organisation helping homeless people he didn't think he would still be doing it at the age of 82 - or that it would take him to Peru.

But it did, and the former salesman has no plans to call it a day any time soon.

Now 82, he has, for the last ten years, volunteered twice a week at the Emmaus Leeds Secondhand Superstore on St Mary’s Street. He is responsible for sorting and pricing up donated items such as bric-a-brac, clothes and books ready to be sold in the shop.

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All the profits from this shop go back into supporting the work of Emmaus Leeds which supports 26 formerly homeless people by providing them with a home, support, training and work in a community setting.

Volunteer Peter Talbot at Emmaus.Volunteer Peter Talbot at Emmaus.
Volunteer Peter Talbot at Emmaus.

Mr Talbot is one of more than 19m people who volunteer with a group, club or organisation and started his volunteering career as something to help fill his time after he finished work.

He said: "I had been retired for a few years and decided I had got some spare time and would do something a bit more useful. I had a look on the internet and Emmaus cropped up, they were looking for people, I came along and have been here since. It is amazing to see how much stuff people keep and do not use. We do a lot of house clearances and quite often we will get 20 women's handbags from it. Why do women have so many handbags and most of them are empty?

"It never occurred to me or did I think about it being ten years. The time goes so quickly and I was surprised when I realised it myself. I thoroughly enjoy it. The ethos of the organisation is excellent, encourages people to get back on their feet and gain confidence. I enjoy particularly the companionship here, it is wonderful and you are around people from all different backgrounds.

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"If you see somebody get back on their feet, find a place and get a job - it is so satisfying to see that happen."

Volunteering has brought all sorts of travel opportunities Peter Talbot's way.Volunteering has brought all sorts of travel opportunities Peter Talbot's way.
Volunteering has brought all sorts of travel opportunities Peter Talbot's way.

Working in the Emmaus shop has not only got Mr Talbot out of the house, but it has got him out of the country.

When a French student came to help out at Emmaus during his time in the UK, the sprightly pensioner showed him the sights of the city and York and they kept in touch, where the student was to return the sight-seeing favour.

He explained: "I took him under my wing, showed him all the sights and he went to Peru to further his education for six months. We kept in touch by e-mail and he said 'why don't you come here for a few weeks?' So I did. He found me some digs, organised all the trip and it was wonderful.

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"We had another student in his own accommodation in Leeds for six weeks but was here for eight weeks so he stayed at my house for the fortnight. We travelled about and he invited me to meet his family in France so I went on holiday there and he came back to Leeds with his little sister.

Part of Peter's jobs are sorting stock to be sold in the shop.Part of Peter's jobs are sorting stock to be sold in the shop.
Part of Peter's jobs are sorting stock to be sold in the shop.

"It is quite strange, you never know what is around the corner and anything can happen."

Mr Talbot was born in Wortley and after attending Upper Wortley Primary and West Leeds High School he started work as a metallurgist in a foundry but changed careers and firms and went to live and work in South Africa as a sales manager and upon returning to Leeds worked in the carpet trade for several years until he retired.

But for Mr Talbot, life was not to stop at retirement.

He now lives in Chapel Allerton but is often out for hours of the day walking when he is not on holiday with friends or working in the shop.

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He said: "Without a doubt I never regarded retirement as part of sitting and waiting. You might as well do something before you die. But it works both ways and you get out what you put in, like anything else. It is nice to feel that you are of some use. Just because you are retired, you are not on the scrap heap so to speak. It is hard to imagine not coming here now."

Following from national Volunteers' Week last week, Emmaus Leeds is appealing for new retail volunteers to join Mr Talbot and the volunteer team to help sort donations, restock the store and assist customers at the Secondhand Superstore.

Gina Morrison, General Manager of Emmaus Leeds said: “Volunteers are integral to the work we do at Emmaus Leeds, and to have someone like Peter around is a joy. He adds so much to the community, not only his reliability and hard work, but his cheerfulness and interest in everyone, young and old alike. Peter is living proof that volunteering can expand your horizons and bring new friendships and experiences into your life."

If you are interested in volunteering with Emmaus Leeds, email [email protected] for further details and an application form.

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