A Dunedin op shop which recognises the Covid-19 crisis has meant a tough year for people who are already struggling is giving away its goods for five days.
A sign on the door of the Society of St Vincent de Paul Shop in South Dunedin says that “it’s been a tough year, particularly for people who were finding things difficult anyway.
“With this in mind we’re offering everything in our South Dunedin shop FREE for one week from Monday 19 October to Friday 23 October 2020.”
The society Dunedin Centre and Pastoral Coordinator, Sarah Strang, notes South Dunedin is one of the lowest socio-economic areas in New Zealand.
The most people would usually pay for an item at this op shop is $1.
Honestly, even that’s a struggle for people sometimes.”
Shop volunteers end up giving away goods if people can’t afford them, she says. The shop doesn’t make a profit and the sale of donated clothing, shoes, bedding, crockery, bric-a-brac and children’s books, toys and clothes just covers its rent and power costs.
A chat and company
Customers visit the shop not only for cheap clothing or bric-a-brac, but also for a chat and company.
“People just come in for a chat, it’s so much about that, so much about the community.”
Life in South Dunedin can be a bit grim, however the sense of community is strong, Sarah says.
“Different people in the community have different connections with the volunteers…and the volunteers have been there for years and years and years.”
An elderly woman who for many years has faithfully served behind the counter for two hours each Friday morning was sick one day.
That morning in the space of two hours, ten locals came in especially to see her, including one woman who’d driven her mother from a rest home for this purpose.
The society runs shops in South and Central Dunedin. Sarah says the bulk of children’s goods go to the southern store because it has families who benefit.
Asked about Covid-19’s effects, she says the St Vincent de Paul foodbank wasn’t as busy as usual during the March 26-May 13 nationwide quarantine. Other city foodbanks have said the same.
Each New Zealand Catholic parish contains a St Vincent de Paul group which visits people who are isolated, in hospital or in prison; and identifies needs, such for as advocacy, budgeting advice or material support including food, clothing and bedding.
Profits from the Central Dunedin shop go towards meeting these needs locally, a budgeting service and a walk-in foodbank which operates every weekday. Its clients include young families and former refugees.
One rule is that “no form of help is foreign to the society,” meaning it can assist in many, varied ways.
Sarah says because they don’t receive grants or government funding, they can be more flexible and remain more focused on people than paperwork.
And what do they hope to change or do through the Free Shop generosity?
It’s something that we can do. It’s nice to be able to provide without any expectation of reward and return.”
This is the first Free Shop they’ve run and she isn’t sure how much they will give away.
“It might be something that we look at making an annual thing.”
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About the two op shops