On the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, church op shops are bridging the gap between congregations and the community. Ashley Thompson speaks with volunteers from the Mudgeeraba and Mooloolaba Uniting Church op shops.
If you find yourself browsing through the eclectic treasure of Mudgeeraba Uniting Church Community Care Op Shop on a weekday morning around ten, it’s likely you’ll be invited into the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
This is the community atmosphere chairperson Noela Lister and other hard-working volunteers have spent 25 years fostering in their locally renowned charity shop.
“It wasn’t ever started to fund the church,” explains Noela. “The vision was to meet the needs of people in the community and to reach out to the community”.
Originally run out of a tiny heritage building on the church property by two church members who shared
a vision for community outreach, it wasn’t long before the Mudgeeraba congregation’s op shop outgrew this space and moved into a bigger building.
Twenty years later the op shop has an active volunteer base of around 60 and annual income of $213 000, last year giving away $112 000 after expenses.
“We support lots of different people,” says Noela, “first locally, then nationally, then overseas.”
Currently the profits from the Community Care Op Shop fund a full-time community counsellor, a full-time play group coordinator and four local school chaplains. That’s in addition to supporting local charities, giving out food parcels and tithing 10 per cent of its monthly income
to the church.
Noela is in no doubt that the work is worth it.
“For the friendship—the community within the op shop is really worth it even if it isn’t financially worth it. There is a real community built with our volunteers and with the regular customers,” she says.
Likewise, the three-year-old Helping Hand Charity Op Shop run out of the Mooloolaba Uniting Church began not for profit, but for friendship.
“It grew out of us wanting to be together.” says op shop coordinator, Narelle Hinde.
“I mean everyone’s been lonely at some stage in their life and just need someone to talk to. And that’s what I find—that even though the internet gives you access to so many people, you can’t beat speaking to people. You can’t beat a hug from someone.”