blog?… oh, THAT blog…

17 October 2007


:: that blog, there

Um, hi.

Where was I?  Just… around.  Feeling like one of the those pages you find in exam papers and official forms, like this:








I tried to pull my finger out and write something for blog action day but I didn’t believe what I wrote and couldn’t articulate what I believe and pulled it down.

Then today, whilst perusing Hansard (… shut up.  It was for work, OK?) I found that the Hon. (Richard) George Richard Torbay, MP, had said it all for me.  I hereby apologise to Mr Torbay for all the times I have referred to him as pudding-faced and shrill; and reproduce his speech here for your thoughtful reading pleasure:

Mr RICHARD TORBAY (Northern Tablelands—Speaker) [6.09 p.m.]: Often we hear in this House about the tremendous contribution volunteers make to our community. Most country communities depend heavily on the work of these people who willingly give their time and energy to support local services and organisations. It has been a long tradition for country people to give something back to the community and it never occurs to many of the volunteers I meet that what they do is anything more than the right thing. Recently I called in to meet the volunteers who run the Glen Innes Opportunity Shop, which recently donated $61,700 from its annual profits to groups benefiting the local community. It is one of the few independently run community shops of its kind.

Its patron is 88-year-old Mrs Delsie Stumbles, who has been working for the op shop since she was 22 years of age. She is the last remaining member of the original committee, and after 66 years of service still works a four-hour shift on Monday afternoons, travelling over two kilometres to the shop on her electric scooter. Until recently she always walked. She has never owned a telephone and never driven a car. She still grows most of her own vegetables and makes the sponge cakes and scones that she originally contributed to the shop in 1941. The venture was then known as the Pat Shop, short for the Patriotic Shop, which had changed its name from the Wartime Tearooms and Comfort Fund originating during the First World War. From 1941 Mrs Stumbles and other volunteers made cakes and sold second-hand clothing to raise money for the Australian Comforts Fund to provide warm clothing and food parcels for the soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel engaged in the war. The volunteers also spent time knitting socks and making camouflage nets to help with the war effort.

At the end of the war the group changed its name to the Opportunity Shop and continued its work to contribute to the Food for Britain campaign. It began donating also to local groups including the Apex Children’s Library, the Far West Children’s Association and the Flying Doctor Service. In those days boy scouts collected donated clothing from around the town and district to be sorted and sold at the shop. The Opportunity Shop has changed venues around six times and once lost its entire stock in a fire on Sunday 5 March 1961. True to the spirit of these volunteers, they found new premises and were up and operating again eight days later. The shop now occupies its largest ever premises and is increasing profits each year.

The current president, Mrs Denise Pryor, told me that the op shop holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the people of Glen Innes, who appreciate that all the money raised is returned to the community. The largest donations this year were $5,000 to Glen Industries to support its work with disabled employees, $6,000 for the Hunter New England Health Service to purchase a pulse oximeter in the maternity ward and $5,000 for a University of New England Nursing Scholarship for a local student. Donations were made to schools, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, the local pipe band, the RSPCA, emergency services, the local art gallery, the toy library and a mental health support group—in all 35 groups shared the funding support.

The 40 volunteers, many in their seventies and eighties, keep the Opportunity Shop operating 5½ days a week. Mostly they sell clothing, jewellery, books, shoes and electrical goods, and their clientele includes all socioeconomic groups. These days the op shop has a bit of a cachet with shoppers looking for vintage clothing and brand items. Another change in our throwaway society is that many items donated are almost new. When a pair of shoes at the op shop costs $2, a jacket $5, a shirt $2.50 and a woollen jumper $3, it gives some idea of the number of sales it takes to raise more than $60,000 a year. It is a highly profitable, well-managed organisation and the volunteers who run it are true professionals: they keep the costs down, the profits high and the labour force is free. They are positive and cheerful. Over a cup of tea they told me how much they enjoy the work and each other’s company. These volunteers are an example to us all and demonstrate most successfully, in our money-obsessed times, that some of the best things in life are still free.


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