It was the year 1971 when Evelyn (Ev) Evans of New Plymouth started out as a volunteer at The Salvation Army Thrift Shop (now Family Store), looking for ‘something different to do’. Ev’s eight children had gone off to school or left home to work, so Ev wanted something to get her out of the house, to have fun and enjoy the company of others.
After 40 years, with just a three-year-break in the mix, Ev is still at the Family Store each Monday morning ready to do her bit for her community as a volunteer.
Ev, who is affectionately known as ‘Ma’ by all the staff and volunteers, was ‘brought up’ in the Army, attending Sunday school, singing company and youth club; however, she did her own thing over her teenage years and drifted away from the church.
One of Ev’s fondest memories from her early Army days is of her uncle, Jack Turchi, who used to stand by the Inglewood toilets in his uniform and preach to those wanting to use the facilities—even if it meant standing in the rain with an umbrella. Ev says she always admired his passion and enthusiasm. She also loved attending the Veale Road Outpost.
Becoming a volunteer reconnected Ev with the Army, and in recent years Ev was invited to church one Sunday by the Family Store manager. This saw Ev also reconnect with her faith and her church family.
Over her 40 years of volunteering, Ev has seen the change from a Salvation Army shop selling just second-hand clothing and knick-knacks, to a large second-hand hub for just about everything. She’s also seen the store move to six different premises, and has known at least 15 different managers and countless volunteers and workers. Now aged 82, these days, Ev’s role in the store is sorting the wool and buttons, but over the years she has worked on the till as well as sorting and pricing donated items.
Ev believes the secret to her longevity in volunteering is determination and seeing her volunteering as ministry for God. She feels the Family Store is where God wants her and where God can use her for his Kingdom.
Ev says she can feel God’s presence in her life and work in the store—‘sitting on her shoulder and teaching me more each day’.
Ev loves to see families being helped through the store. She says the Family Store staff and volunteers are like family —literally, her daughter Karen has been volunteering alongside her mum for the past 28 years.
Ev is the proud mother of eight, grandmother of 25 and great-grandmother of 36, with another two on the way. ‘You start off with two people and look what happens!’ she says. Ev’s husband Colin passed away 16 years ago and Ev still misses him every day. Although she has a large family and lives in a complex surrounded by people, Ev still knows what it feels like to be lonely.
Volunteering at the Family Store has helped combat her loneliness over the years. Ev has enjoyed meeting all sorts of people, sharing life and having fun together.