Banter and goodwill – Volunteers keep op shop tradition thriving in Woodend

A special camaraderie exists between the volunteers who manage Woodend’s Uniting Church Op Shop.
This cheerful group shares a love of giving back to the community, plenty of cheeky banter and a healthy sense of humour – a necessity when the clothing off your own back gets accidentally sold out from under you!
“You can’t leave anything behind, if you put something away you’ve got to leave your bag on it and just about write your name on it, we’ll sell anything,” volunteer Kerry Barry laughs.
“If something silly comes into the shop, someone gets given it … we’ve got a character here (ahem, Graeme Hewitt) who likes to dress up in anything that happens to come in!”
For more than 40 years the op shop has served the community, from several different shopfront locations, making sure anyone in need is looked after with clothing and other necessities.
After the devastating Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, evacuated residents gathered at the racecourse and were invited in to take anything they needed for free.
“When the shop was opened originally, it was said that no child in Woodend needed to go without shoes and socks,” Bronwyn Hewitt says.
The tradition of the op shop is one of the earliest examples of the recycling revolution and a perfect circular economy. Donated goods from the local community are purchased by other community members and money raised is returned once again through donations to local fire brigades, SES, the local ambulance service and schools.
Vintage clothing and other items continue to be popular with people of all ages, which the volunteers believe proves the old adage, ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to’.
“People are now more inclined to recycle and reuse, and we’re all becoming more and more aware of waste, and a lot of goods we get are better quality than some of the new things you’d buy now,” Kerry says.
Some of the longest-serving volunteers have watched Woodend change and grow over time, welcoming lots of new young families with working parents who commute to Melbourne.
“At the moment we’re meeting all the people that we didn’t get to know before, because they’re working from home and they’re taking the dog for a walk during their lunch break rather than having a cup of coffee in Collins Street,” George Roberts says.
Last October the op shop moved to a larger site in the Uniting Church Hall in Forest Street that can accommodate more stock and larger items of furniture. It’s open Monday and Saturday from 9.30am to 1pm, and Thursday and Friday from 9.30am to 3pm.
More volunteers are always wanted.
Contact Bronwyn Hewitt on 0409 260 397, Jan Cole on 0413 837 068 or Fiona Armour on 0492 932 610.

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