Have you heard the BUZZ about Grovedale’s 3216 Connect Op Shop? Located at 2 Dendle St, off Marshalltown Rd, this little space is more of a community hub than an op shop. It also provides support to those facing the trauma of unemployment, suicide and long-term illness and practical help to assist people getting back to work. There is a food bank and financial planning assistance is available, while Manager Michele Warren and her team are well connected with various agencies and other community groups: “The two major groups that we tend to see are single parents (mothers and fathers) and women who have suffered domestic abuse,” she says.
Michele has a background in retail clothing but she has always bought clothes from op shops, “I felt that it was what I should do and not buy things brand new. I have always felt very aware that if I give $70 overseas that is a child’s education for a whole year, so if I see a pair of jeans for $70 …I always have that in the back of my mind.”
For years she dreamed of managing an op shop, a place where money could be raised to help local and overseas communities. Today she has a team of 23 volunteers including two women who have been refugees and are learning English as they work in the shop. Funds raised are spent on supporting the community, for example Foundation61, and some money is sent to an orphanage in the Philippines.
3216 Connect Op Shop is administered by the Belmont Christian Reformed Church and shares premises with Geelong Mobile Cool Rooms- Michele is very grateful for the support of her landlord, Peter Thierry.
Although space is tight Michele explains this often works as a positive as people are more likely to interact: ‘Recently an elderly customer mentioned that he had run out of fire wood. Another shopper heard this and explained they had just cut down three trees, offered the man the wood and between them they worked out a way of transporting it to his place.’
Michele believes that God has given her spaces where customers experiencing difficulties or needing someone to talk to will realise that there is additional help available.
How can the wider community help? “Through donating goods and spreading the word about the op shop.” The shop needs to meet certain criteria to obtain tax-deductible status and Liking and Sharing 3216 Connect Op Shop on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/3216connect/ is another way that everyone can support this great cause.
PHOTO CAPTION: Michele Warren, second from right, with some of her volunteers.