Christmas at the Op Shop

 Geeveston Op Shop.
Outside the Geeveston Op Shop.

We had a busy week at the Op Shop or rather a busy three days as Wednesday was the last day of trading until after New Year. There was a sale on and plenty of people coming in to take advantage of the bargains.

Wednesday though was exceptional for some of the customers we met. First were a family who had just flown in from overseas for a holiday only to find that their luggage had gone missing and all they had were the clothes they arrived in. They were delighted to find we had a sale on and were able to buy enough clothing to keep them going for the next few days for just ten dollars. What I especially liked about this family is that even after a tiring 13 hour flight and the loss of  all their gear they were still determined to make their unscheduled shopping trip a positive experience and actually seemed to enjoy themselves choosing some new things to wear.

It was an unexpectedly cold and wintry day. We had several customers who came in to buy warm jackets and jumpers because the chill had taken them by surprise. Some were backpackers who are starting to arrive for the cherry picking season and I heard several different European accents during the day. A few also wanted necessities like cutlery, drink bottles and plates as they were camping.

The most moving visitor of the day was an elderly lady who came in to collect a hamper. Our manager, Juarne,  had heard that she was in need of a hand over Christmas and as the goal of the Op Shop is to support the local community she slipped out to buy a few groceries and goodies which we packed in a hamper. Later the lady arrived and hesitantly told us what she had come for; when she saw the hamper her hand went to her mouth and she seemed to be fighting back tears. Both Karen and I offered to carry the basket for her as it was heavy but she said she’d be fine. As she left Karen darted to a shelf and picked up one of the wrapped gifts we had on sale and followed her out to give it to her. I went to the door and watched as she caught up with the lady and gave her the gift. They hugged and when Karen came back I said “That is what Christmas is about.” we hugged too and as we both felt a bit teary ourselves we suddenly became very busy rearranging items on shelves for a few minutes.

I am glad that we were able to do a kindness for someone as I have found it a bit depressing this year that so many people have said that they would be glad when Christmas is over. I know Christmas is hard for many people who have no money or are alone but when I hear people who have their families and enough food in the house say this it does make me a bit cross.

Finally though our day came to an end or so we thought. There were a few people in the shop at three o’clock, our normal closing time so we let them stay because we would be closed until after New Year, We brought everything from outside into the shop, locked up and left around three thirty. On the whiteboard outside the door was a message to say when we would re-open and giving phone numbers to call if someone was in need of  help over the holidays. We had not gone far before Karen received a phone call asking if she could come back to the shop. We turned around and found three young backpackers sitting outside. We opened the shop and waited while they looked for clothing. Finally after forty-five minutes they were ready to leave and so were we. Our long day had come to an end.

Christmas Gifts at the Op Shop
Christmas Gifts at the Op Shop
More Christmas gifts at the Op shop
More Christmas gifts at the Op shop

 

Op Shop Days

Recently I’ve started volunteering a couple of days a week at our local Op Shop. Op shops, opportunity shops, thrift shops, whatever they are known as are a great idea. Not only do they raise funds for deserving causes they also give people with limited means a way to buy good quality clothing and household items. Collectors love them too. You never know what you may find in an Op Shop. Some of the first dolls I collected came from Op Shops around Adelaide when we lived there.

One of my best Op Shop buys was a pair of  Wellington boots (gum boots) which I bought not long after we arrived in Tasmania to live. I bought them in an Op Shop in Huonville for 50c and I still use them in the garden when the weather is wet fourteen years later.

 

Charity-shop-Epping-029.JPG
By ProfDEH at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11642694

The Salvation Army, City Mission, St Vincent de Paul are some large and well known charities that run Op Shops while others are run by church or community groups. There are even online Op Shops. The Salvos opened  Australia’s first online Op Shop. It’s getting to be big business here. From what I gather from doll collecting fellow bloggers American Thrift Shops are much bigger affairs than ours are. The shop that I volunteer at is located in the grounds of the Geeveston Primary School and the money raised is used in the local community which I really like.

I’ve visited a lot of Op Shops in the past but this is my first experience of working in one and I’m finding it very interesting and a lot of fun as well. One of the interesting parts is seeing what sort of things come into the shop as donations. Sometimes we arrive in the morning to find boxes and bags of things sitting outside that have been dropped off overnight but often people will just come in with things. They might be moving away or just de-cluttering. Mothers bring their children’s outgrown clothes and toys, sometimes they may have come from the shop in the first place. That’s good recycling.

The first thing that happens when donations are received is that they are sorted out. Most things are in very good condition but occasionally there may be items that are broken or clothes that are a bit too worn to put on the racks. Some clothing can be cut up for rags and the buttons cut off to be recycled, old handbags are saved for a crafty lady who makes things from them and stuffing from toys and pillows can sometimes be saved  as well.

As the shop is in the school grounds parents often  come in after dropping their children off in the morning or before picking them up in the afternoon.  Often there will be lots of pre-schoolers playing with the toys while their mothers stock up on clothes for the family. When there are not many customers there is usually something to do to keep busy. As I am a compulsive sorter I will sometimes go and tidy the shelves of books, CD’s and DVD’s  or arrange the clothing in colour groups. Sometimes we rearrange the china and bric a brac just to make the displays look different and more interesting.

The fun part is chatting with customers, many of whom are regulars. It’s nice when the shop is filled with happy people who are pleased with their finds or just enjoying a good browse.

At the end of the day I always feel that I have done something worthwhile by being there.

 

Further Reading:

https://www.dosomethingnearyou.com.au/national-op-shop-week

http://salvosstores.salvos.org.au/about-us/news-and-events/2015/07/06/the-style-army/