When the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, the St Vincent de Paul Society made the difficult decision to shut its 36 stores around the State. In recent months they have gradually been reopening, much to the delight of staff, volunteers and customers.
Vinnies zone manager Kelli Whiley said when the Norwood store reopened its doors at the end of May there was cause for celebration.
“It’s a busy store here and we have a good turnover,” she said.
“Ninety five per cent of the clients coming in are regulars and you get to know the people well. When we were closed they kept ringing to see if we were back and they were so happy when the store reopened.”
Under new guidelines and restrictions Vinnies is currently unable to take collection of furniture and many stores have been reorganised to enable social distancing inside. All items donated now remain untouched for the first 48 hours, and are then cleaned thoroughly using hot water and steam, where appropriate.
Ms Whiley said the success of The Parade store was largely due to the hard work of the 60 people who volunteer each week, about a third of whom are members of the Norwood Catholic parish.
“I am very, very grateful as everyone here is my family,” she said.
“Every day is a different day, because it is a different group of people.”
For former teacher Lorraine, volunteering three days a week for the past decade has made her feel “useful” in retirement.
When the store was closed she managed to keep very busy, but it wasn’t quite as fulfilling.
“I revised my Italian, read Latin and now I’m doing Spanish; I read a ton and did a million puzzles and games and then there was Zoom with the grandies,” she said.
“While I found plenty of things to do it was very egocentric…whereas here you do things for other people, so I guess that is what I missed most.”
A volunteer for the past 21 years, Evelyn said she had no qualms about returning when the shop reopened and enjoyed sorting through the donated items and getting them ready for resale.
Merilyn, who is a member of the Norwood parish and part of the local Vinnies chapter, has been volunteering at the store for the past 15 years and was also grateful to be back.
“It’s usually a pretty full on day… but it is lovely when you see the money from sales go up and you are then able to support others in the community,” she said.
“You get a lot of pleasure out of volunteering and you make many friendships.”Jump to next article