As I sit here by the fire reflecting back over the day, I think of all the lives we have touched in just six hours. The day started out with my usual weekly meeting with our Team Leader, Client Services, Ann, without whom so much of what we achieve just wouldn’t happen. The Op Shop opens to the sound of singing and whistling, courtesy of Ky, team leader for the day and before long the kettle is on and the verandah is festooned with bargains to catch the eye of potential customers as they pass by.

The hilarity begins when Kevin arrives, quick with a joke and the odd wise crack or two. Tricia is soon in the admin chair, catching up on all things operational and Sharyn has joined Ky in the shop. Kay is in the garden on her knees planting daffodils and Tan is clearing the very last leaves that have blown in over the weekend.

The kettle works overtime as people come and go, there’s coffee for Harry and a chat with a durry under the tree while Ellie and Ann plot the next step in creating a mosaic on the soon to be completed water feature in our Reflective Garden where bare earth and prickles once reigned.

Surely it must be lunchtime as Meryl has come to join us, raring to go with a Craft Session for anyone who is keen. It’s too cold for salad so next thing we know there is a frying pan on the stove emitting the familiar fragrance of garlic, onions and assorted veggies to warm the cockles of those that need it. The comment is made how nice it is to have someone cook for you when you live on your own. (It is just as nice to have someone to spoil and care for.)

In the midst of the chaos in the kitchen, a student arrives to have a meeting about her potential placement, but the CEO is manning the frypan so she is asked to have a cuppa and wait, which she does gladly. (Adaptation and flexibility are two valuable qualities in our work; she passed with flying colours!!)

Val makes it in during lunch to begin her shift in the Op Shop and soon finds a quiet spot in the craft room to plan her Meditation Session for this coming Saturday and work on her design for decorating one of the squares on our new fence. She is soon joined by others, including Gaynor who will add her masterpiece to the collection. Ann and Ellie return from a successful trip to the hardware store where some colourful tiles are added to the collection of broken crockery which will create Ellie’s quirky design for the water feature.

All day, from opening time at 10.30 to closing at 4.30 the shop is busy with new customers and regulars alike. At afternoon tea time Bill comes in for a cuppa and a chat as he often does, always finding something to buy and perhaps stealing a peck on the cheek from one of his ‘girls’, who will often be serenaded in return.

As we all head home it strikes me that this is what we have been working towards for the last eight years, a safe, supportive environment where people can come for understanding, support and caring. A place where judgements are left at the front gate and a listening ear can be found. All the people I have mentioned are either visitors or volunteers, we all need each other in a variety of ways and there are days when the carers might be the cared or, if that’s what’s needed. In the mix we have ex teachers and tradies, an injured worker on a return to work program, vulnerable visitors who come to us for support and somewhere to ‘be’, students who need a flexible placement, a widower, a stroke survivor and a mum who has lost her son to suicide all mixed in with our current compliment of Work For The Dole participants. It is an interesting mix and it presents its fair share of challenges but we know it is all worth it as the services we provide are vital to those who need it.