Through The Eyes of an Op Shop Volunteer

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to volunteer in a charity store? I know I have. Two Melbourne business women, Rina and Chrystal, volunteer their time to St Bart’s Op Shop, Burnley Street, Richmond. Both ladies offered to answer some questions for Recycled Fashion, giving us a little insight into their reasons for volunteering at St Bart's Op Shop, and a brief look at the work that they do.

An interview with Rina Chia & Chrystal Psaltopoulos
Through The Eyes of an Op Shop Volunteer

:: Chrystal & Rina ::

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer?
Rina: Volunteering is something I’ve always wanted to do and this year was the year I promised myself I’d do it. I’d met Chrystal through social media and at Take 2 Markets and we instantly struck up a friendship. She spoke of volunteering at the op shop and they were looking for more volunteers, so the choice was pretty easy.

Chrystal: I’m a local and would always stop into the op shop with my kids when they were babies. Back then it was run by a gorgeous lady called Lorna who has since passed away. She was always so lovely to me and the boys and I found that I really benefited from visiting her and having a chat. Especially in those early days of motherhood. Because I would shop at St Bart's and loved the community feel it provided I felt like I wanted to be a part of it in some way and give back through volunteering.

Q: What made you choose this particular op shop to volunteer at?

Rina: Having Chrystal volunteering there already made it easy to start. Also I like the fact that it is a small church run op shop which is entirely staffed by volunteers, plus it’s in Richmond and I’ve always wanted to work in Richmond.

Chrystal: I chose this particular op shop to volunteer at because it’s still relatively untouched. It’s how an oppie used to be. Full of goodies that you have to rummage through. It doesn’t look like a department store like some of the other big name Op Shops. We provide a place for the community to congregate. Some come very week to sit and have a read of the magazines, others come to see what’s new and we’re increasingly getting more and more young ‘hipsters’ coming through. I think word has got out just how good our stock is and how cheap our prices are!

Q: What is the charity affiliated with St Bart's Op Shop?

Rina: St Bart's Opportunity Shop is a not for profit group run by St Bart's Anglican Church, Burnley. It fundraises for the parish and its mission giving.

Chrystal: St. Bartholomew’s op shop is part of the Anglican church. However the money goes to a whole range of charities. Both local and international. 

Q: How often do you volunteer?

Rina: Every Wednesday from 10am to 1-2pm.

Chrystal: I go in a few times a week to help with the sorting and I’m there every Wednesday’s with Rina and Lysette.

:: Chrystal, Rina & Lysette ::

Q: What are your tasks and duties

Rina: Many and varied. Sorting items, pricing, front desk and register duties, customer service, identifier of mysterious items – you name it! I also manage their Facebook page.

Chrystal: My official tasks include sorting, general tidying and being salesperson. However all the volunteers take on so much more- we provide local information to customers, we tidy up and occasionally may even attend to a leaking toilet!

Q: What do you do for your 'day job'?

Rina: I run a women’s recycled designer & vintage fashion market – Take 2 Markets. Plus I have two kids and a husband.

Chrystal: My day job varies. I’m a mum first and foremost. Followed closely by blogger extraordinaire and then community manager at 1derground co-working space in Richmond. I’m currently on leave from my school teaching job as a primary teacher as well.

Q: Are you surprised at the items donated?

Rina: Constantly – sometimes for all the wrong reasons too! We’ve had underwear which has seen better days, pilly disgusting clothing which should have been made into rags and other stuff which has basically been dumped on us. On the other hand we get some absolutely brilliant donations – designer clothing, shoes, handbags, crockery, books, CDs, DVDs – just today a lady dropped in a few bags of great designer items such as The Ark, Feathers, Trenery & Cue, plus we’ve recently received Max Mara, Kenzo & Prada. I recently picked up a genuine Alexander Wang clutch.

Chrystal: What surprises me about some items that are donated is the state that they are in. If they’re clothes that are too old or damaged for you to wear then we definitely don’t want them. There’s been occasions when I’m sure people just empty their dirty laundry hampers into a plastic bag and bring it in. Oh, and then there was the garbage bag full of ‘adult’ entertainment viewing.

Q: Do you get first dibs on anything you like in the shop?

Rina: Yes! Because we are all so busy doing our duties, we don’t get time to try things on properly, so we’ve all agreed that we can take home any things to try on and if its good we pay for it at our next shift, and if it’s no good then we return it to the shop.

Chrystal: Sometimes. However we always like to put things out on the floor first and then go through the racks like any other customer.

Q: Do you look at Op Shops differently now that you work in one?

Rina: I never fully appreciated the amount of work that goes into running one. The sorting can take ages, pricing things just right and just keeping it all looking inviting and attractive. All whilst making money for the parish.

Chrystal: I look at op shop prices differently now that I work in an op shop. I’ve been known to pick up a pair of pants at another op shop and exclaim “$25 for this? They’re dreaming!” I also look at the volunteers with a new level of respect. People really are selfless with giving up so much of their time and energy to volunteer.

:: Thank you so much Rina and Chrystal ::

Do you work or volunteer in a thrift store, charity or op shop? If you don't, would you consider doing so?



Patti said...

Lovely interviews, Erica. Thanks to all the volunteers who make thrift shops possible. xo

Alicia Langford said...

I have always wondered what it would be like & definately keen to do it one day!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Yes I do volunteer of sorts with my favourite op shop here on the GC. I've been going there for years and have made life long friendships. With three kids five years and under I don't currently have time to volunteer on a weekly basis. But I assist with popping in on a weekly basis and I help with identifying valuable or vintage items, creative or display suggestions and more. I assist with any events the shop is invited to so I will sometimes go in when the shop is closed in weekends with other stuff to prepare for events, as well as assisting with sorting after major donation times like Christmas. I also assist with the shops social media on Facebook. Basically I do what I can with the commitments I have, I enjoy it.

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