Just like its lifeboats, the RNLI’s retail team need a dedicated volunteer crew — of all ages and abilities — who can give a little time to help save lives at sea. Volunteers are needed at locations across Cornwall.

Emileen RNLI
Emileen Williams (left) and another volunteer, Rosemary, on a stall at St Ives Lifeboat Day. Photograph: RNLI

Emileen Williams is 80 this month and has been volunteering for the RNLI in St Ives since 2008. She was contacted by her friend one Saturday morning and asked if she could help at short notice, and she’s “loved every minute of it since then, to this day”.

She said: “I’m from a family with a seafaring history. My grandfathers, uncles, and husband were in the Royal Navy, my grandson Anthony is senior lifeguard at Gwithian, and my three other grandchildren also worked as lifeguards, but have since joined different public services, helping others.

“I would certainly say to anyone who has some spare time, young or old, join us! Become a volunteer, meet and make new friends. You will enjoy every minute of it. Meeting people, laughing with the public — it really is so rewarding and fulfilling.”

RNLI shops started out as simple cake stalls, run by volunteers to raise money for their local lifeboat station.

“These stalls started selling commemorative RNLI products in around 1920 and quickly moved on to selling souvenirs and Christmas cards, with all profits helping save lives at sea,” said Andy Bramwell, the RNLI’s community manager.

“Today, we have over 170 RNLI shops around the coast and inland, all of which are still run by our dedicated volunteers. They attract many visitors throughout the year and stock an excellent range of unique souvenirs and gifts.”

He added: “The pandemic unfortunately hit our shops hard as they closed for periods of time in line with Covid-19 restrictions. We were delighted when we could re-open them safely, in accordance with government guidance, and are looking forward to welcoming our visitors in 2022.

“To do this successfully, we want to grow our team of shop volunteers and are looking for people who enjoy interacting with others, can help us to provide a high level of customer service, and ensure our shops continue to be friendly and welcoming places.”

• To find out more about how you can help generate vital funds, and find opportunities near you, go to rnli.org/ourshopcrew