A GREENOCK woman who was bullied at school has told how a charity shop has shaped her life - and she now wants to share her passion with a new generation of volunteers.

Sarah Malone runs the British Heart Foundation furniture store in Greenock town centre and she is raring to go after finally re-uniting her close-knit team and customers following lockdown.

But it was a different story when she walked in the door as a shy 16-year-old volunteer, bereft of confidence after being bullied at school.

Ten years on Sarah is managing what is one of the charity's most successful shops, bringing in thousands of pounds every week and helping to save lives in the process.

Now the manager says her door is open to others like her across Inverclyde.

Sarah, 26, from Braeside, said: "I owe the British Heart Foundation shop absolutely everything.

"I came in here when I was 16 with no confidence at all.

"I was bullied at school and a shadow of myself - I couldn't even answer a phone for four months.

"Now I love helping other volunteers who walk through the door.

"The manager in here at the time, Karen Clayton, saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.

"She took me under her wing.

"Karen also ran the post office over in Kilcreggan, so I started working there as well.

"I went from being a volunteer, to a member of staff and then the manager, as well as going to college.

"I even met my husband Paul, who is a skipper on the ferries, when I was going to work.

"This shop is everything to me."

Sarah's remarkable journey all began by chance.

She said: "It all happened because I was parked in West Blackhall Street while my mum was in the opticians.

"My dad said to me to go in and ask to volunteer and I did.

"I have never looked back."

The West Blackhall Street furniture shop brings in around £6,000 a week for the BHF, the largest heart charity in the country, which has helped reduce the number of deaths from heart disease.

Sarah added: "I am so passionate about this shop and the charity.

"We are a big family, the staff, volunteers and the customers.

"I have customers who come back all the time and I now know their grandchildren.

"We end up meeting people through the shop who have been affected by heart disease and it is just incredible to be a part of it.

"It has been really tough this year with the pandemic, so we have missed everyone."

In her role managing the large store no two days or two vanloads are ever the same.

Sarah added: "We get everything in here - if you work in a retail furniture store you know what the lines are and what is coming in.

"In here we get so excited when the furniture comes in, as we never know what we are going to get.

"What is great about being a manager in a shop like this I have full creative say on where things go and all the displays.

"I also know what my regular customers are looking for and what they might like."

But the store wouldn't function without volunteers and Sarah works with around 15 at any one time.

The store manager said: "The unique thing about the shop is working with people of all ages, from 16 to 80, and we all help each other.

"Greenock has also become much more diverse in recent years and I've had volunteers from Germany, Sudan and Ethiopia, which is lovely.

"There is also a young girl who volunteers and she reminds me of myself."

One of the volunteers Sarah relies on is John Smail, from Cornhadddock Street.

The 65-year-old said: "I have been here for five years and I love it, shifting all the furniture about.

"I love the company every day and really missed it during lockdown."

To find out out more about the West Blackhall Street BHF shop or to volunteer contact them on 291121.