SOON after his wife passed away from cancer in 2011, Ray Dawson, 68, nearly died after an allergic reaction, but somehow survived.

“I had been given a second chance,” he said, “so I thought I would do something different and volunteer to help people.”

Mr Dawson became a volunteer for Waste Not Want Not, in Chippenham, the charity that helps to create new homes for those who are homeless.

Their Hungerdown Road store in the town is filled with furniture, soft furnishings, electrical goods and microwave ovens, to fill a new home of someone who has nothing.

"We always need new volunteers to run the store and help in general," he said, "and also trustees as well."

"A trustee is someone who will come to a meeting every other month and take on a project with others and get on and do it.

"Volunteering is something positive, as volunteers can gain confidence and go on to train for a new career.

"Volunteers are not worthless as they are not paid but they are priceless."

The charity works with refuges for domestic abuse survivors and Doorway Wiltshire, the charity for those who are homeless, sofa surfing or vulnerably housed in a tenancy.

The volunteers are well supported and are offered help in retraining said Mr Dawson.

One aspect of Waste Not Want Not he said is the fact they stop the furniture going to landfill sites.

In a typical year they save 75 metric tonnes of reusable goods from going to landfill.

Last year they helped to furnish homes for 1,200 low income households in the county. Mr Dawson said the furniture is donated from businesses and the public with the quality often being excellent.

He said that some furniture is new and is donated as the person who bought may have decided they didn't like the colour or the style and rather than send it back they pass it to the charity.

"We are not about making the most money," he said, "but about making the difference to people's lives. We are very proud of the help we provide for survivors of domestic abuse and the homeless."

One 70-year-old man they helped recently he said had been sleeping rough for 10 years. They found him a flat with Green Square and then furnished it for him. The man told Mr Dawson that he finally felt safe and no longer feared being attacked when sleeping in a doorway.

This year they won the 2019 South West Charity of the Year.