We adore all our hard working Vinnies Volunteers! We had a chance to catch up with two brilliant volunteers at our Island Bay Vinnies shop recently: Lidia Gracie and Ursula Carroll. When I arrived at Island Bay, the shop was a bustle with a few customers and volunteers. Everyone was chatting together, laughing and enjoying themselves. Jeneth, our amazing shop manager and one volunteer stayed in the shop while Lida and Ursula headed to grab a coffee with me.
So, how long have you been volunteering with Vinnies?
Lidia: Well, I had to give up working back in 2004 due to my back, and soon after that the Island Bay shop opened. I knew immediately that I wanted to volunteer there so I walked up to the manager and offered to help. At the time however, I only really knew Vinnies for their op shops and it was through volunteering that I learned much more about the good works side.
Ursula: I started volunteering a bit after Lidia, it must have been 2005, after seeing a notice in the church newsletter. I can’t believe its been 11 years that we’ve been volunteering here!
That is a very long time! What keeps both of you coming back?
L: It’s all about serving people in a very down to earth way. I love how we have a local community here and because of working in the shop people will say hi to me in the street and you feel a part of it all.
U: I agree, and its because of volunteering that I’ve gotten to know Lidia and a few others a lot better. I also feel that I’ve been fortunate in my life and it is now pay back time. Its great to do things for others.
You both know Vinnies uses the shops to fund welfare programs, but do the op shops themselves help people?
L: YES! Just allowing people to come in and talk to you, and have a chat. Some want to share personal stories, some are bereaved and we are here to just listen.
U: It can be hard when the shop is full, but it is very worthwhile for me as a listener and for them to have the company.
What do you think about the current Op Shop movement?
U: I’m actually so surprised that op shops are so trendy. Back in the 60s or 80s I know many people would have been embarrassed if they were seen inside. But its not like that at all now. Everyone is looking for a bargain, and its cool to recycle. I don’t buy as much from the shop as I used to though, I need to do a clear out!
L: Me too actually! And it is great that unlike other stores, we tend to get regulars who come in to check what is new, and others who are just killing time waiting for a movie or the bus.
Do you have any advice for potential volunteers or words of wisdom which you live by?
U: I think ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is the most important one, and I always think that when volunteering in the shop. There can be some stressful situations, but it is so worthwhile.
L: I wouldn’t volunteer if I didn’t completely enjoy it, so I would definitely recommend it to others. I also love watching people leave the shop happy.
It was so great to chat with these extraordinary ladies who have been giving back to the community for so long. Vinnies is lucky to have such dedicated volunteers who really care about every person who comes into the shop.
If you’d like to volunteer, please get in touch with us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 04-389-7122 and we will help you find your local Vinnies shop and community. This story originally featured in our newsletter.