Where opportunity knocks

VOLUNTEER WORK: Tenison Woods College students Caity Aldridge and Laura Murdock enjoyed their time spent at Vinnies volunteering for the op shop to celebrate an 18 year partnership with the school. Picture: Supplied.

BROWSING in an opportunity shop can be an interesting experience.

It can result in buying that well loved clothing item, an outfit for a dress up party, that irresistible knick-knack or another piece of memorabilia, often at a bargain price.

Op shops are run by community organisations, business operators and charities.

Some are associated with religious organisations or churches, such as Salvo stores with the Salvation Army or Vinnies with the Catholic charity, the St Vincent de Paul Society as fundraisers for various welfare services.

Of the local op shops, Vinnies on Crouch Street is continuing an 18 year partnership with Tenison Woods College in Mount Gambier.

The college provides staff and student volunteers throughout the Limestone Coast to work in the shop on Saturdays, after being approached by the St Vincent de Paul society nearly two decades ago.

Vinnies has the support of other community volunteers during the week.

Tension’s volunteer coordinator for the collaboration is Chris Lloyd.

“So we provide at least two volunteers, often a student, who are there at the shop on most Saturday mornings,” Ms Lloyd said.

The college runs a variety of other activities to support Vinnies’ welfare outreach such as fashion parades, book sales and the can and casual day, where students provide canned food for Vinnies family packs.

“I think the hand up, not the hand out is the Vinnies way with that non-judgemental approach,“ Ms Lloyd said.

Tenison volunteers work in the clothing section on Saturday mornings between 9am and 12pm.

To help, they need to be at least 15 years of age, have a police check paid for by Vinnies, participate in an induction and be buddied with an experienced volunteer to start with.

There are four new volunteers so far this year.

The Tenison community is guided by the principles of Mother Mary MacKillop and and Father Julian Tenison-Woods, in recognising and meeting the needs of others.

“Students get that from the time they start at early learning and we have students who really love to help, whether it’s providing beanies or socks for the winter appeal or helping in the shop, making sure they provide their cans, so they’re very engaged,“ Ms Lloyd said.

She said many parents choose Tenison Woods College because of its collaboration with the community, where their children can look after others instead of thinking of themselves.

Vinnies volunteers are aware of the sensitivities of working with community members, who use them for a variety of reasons.

“Everyone has a story and Vinnies wants to help,” she said.

Despite having to get up early, the students liked the volunteering experience.

“Knowing that the money they raise on a Saturday morning is directly helping people is something they really enjoy,“ Ms Lloyd said.

Ms Lloyd is also the Catholic identity mission leader of the middle school at Tenison.

“So we have a team that works with students and the social justice aspect of my job is very important and probably my favourite part to be honest,.

providing kids with the opportunity to do things,” she said.

This includes making products to sell at the cave gardens market at Christmas time, donate to Vinnies and the Mayor’s Christmas appeal.

Many students are from families which believe volunteerism is important.

“They see what their parents and friends get out of it, so they know that they’re going to feel good about what they’re doing.“ she said.

Chris said money raised by Tenison volunteers is handed to the treasurer of the local Vinnies chapter and is dispersed among various projects.

There is a room at the Vinnies shop where donated food, including canned produce, long life milk and pasta are put into family packs for distribution to people in need.

“There’s a very lovely parishioner at St Paul’s who makes sure a pack of Tim Tams goes in, he thinks everyone needs treats,“ Ms Lloyd said.

If people would like to treat others by volunteering at Vinnies, they can contact Ms Lloyd at Tenison Woods College.