Sad but happy: Volunteers explain why Second Chance op-shop at Gymea is closing

Saying goodbye: Volunteers at Second Chance op-shop: Judy Street (left), Robyn Stanton, Patsy Smallwood, Jan Fisher, Shirley Basterfield and Toni Stevens. Picture: Chris Lane

Saying goodbye: Volunteers at Second Chance op-shop: Judy Street (left), Robyn Stanton, Patsy Smallwood, Jan Fisher, Shirley Basterfield and Toni Stevens. Picture: Chris Lane

After 25 years service to the community, and raising more than $1 million for the needy, the Uniting Church’s Second Chance op-shop at Gymea is closing.

The church and executive committee of what is an all-volunteers operation, hope customers will appreciate the reasons for the decision and join them in celebrating what has been achieved over a quarter of a century.

Patsy Smallwood explains why the Second Chance op-shop is closing.

They say the average age of the 75 volunteers is “in the seventies”, and the church does not have enough younger people to follow in their footsteps.

Second Chance chairwoman Patsy Smallwood, 83, Judy Street, 78, and Shirley Basterfield, 88, have worked in the op-shop since it opened in 1992.

“Our committee and all our helpers are all volunteers,” Patsy Smallwood said.

“It is sad having to close, and we understand customers being disappointed, but we see it as a time to celebrate our outreach into our community.

“Over 25 years we have given away $1,160,000.

”That’s gone not only in all sorts of ways to the local community but all over  the world, for everything from famines to fires.

”We thank all our customers for the goods they have given us over the years because that has enabled us to do the good deeds we try to achieve.”

The op-shop was the vision of Pam Lorschy, a church member, and Margaret Brookfield, the wife of Rev John Brookfield.

They approached the church council and, with its blessing and a loan of $5000, began the process of finding a suitable shop at the right rental.

It was too expensive on Gymea Bay Road, but they found an empty shop in Warburton Street, and it has operated there since.

For many years, the volunteers made cups of coffee for customers and took donated clothing home to wash and iron before it went on sale.

​Reverend Mel  Pouvalu, of Gymea-Uniting Church, said the church council had reluctantly decided to close Second Chance.

“It is very sad, but that’s the reality of life – most of our volunteers have aged,” she said.

“They have worked so faithfully for so many years and built up such a wonderful reputation.”

Rev Rouvalu said the ageing of the volunteers had been “an issue for a number of years”.

”We tried to get other people and other congregations to come forward, but the demographic is 70-80,” she  said.

“We have a sprinkling of people in their 40s to 60s, and then a big drop to young people.

“There is no one young enough, who is still not working,  to take over the leadership.

“The leadership has to be accountable, and they have to be church people to be on the executive.”

Last year, the op-shop gave $69,500, in donations to 30 different causes.

They included Gymea Community Centre, Kookaburra Kids, George Capsis – Community Outreach, John Franklin Christmas Lunch, Lioness Club of Sutherland Shire,  Karen Refugee Camp in Burma and the Fiji Cyclone Appeal.

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