Anita Day remembers walking to church with her family and her father stopping to chat with the people living on the street. He would sometimes give people the money he was saving for the collection plate.
Growing up in Footscray, where latest Census data reveals almost 900 people are experiencing homelessness, Anita Day has been aware of homelessness and disadvantage from a young age.
This awareness followed her into adulthood, where she became a member of the Social Justice Group at her children’s school.
“They were setting up a roster for parents and students to take shifts at the Mission’s Dining Hall,” Anita says.
“I took a Sunday shift and I loved it – preparing food, serving people, swapping stories. You can dine out on what goes on there – the conversations I’ve had!”
Anita Day is now a regular volunteer at our Cheltenham op shop, one of our newest stores. She first became involved over 18 months ago, entirely by accident.
“I went down to the op shop to donate some goods. It hadn’t been open long at that stage; about six months,” she says.
“There was a wonderful volunteer there named Kate. She was flat-out – it was one of those days.
“So I dropped off my goods, had a look around and said, ‘I’m not doing anything for the next couple of hours. Do you want me to stick around?
“I’ve been volunteering there ever since, doing my regular Wednesday shift.”
Op shops have always been close to Anita’s heart: the nostalgia; the vintage clothes, the smell of old books, and the knowledge that her money is going directly towards services that support people in need.
A chef by trade, Anita used to run her own catering business. She retired two years ago and has since switched her focus to building up her Bed and Breakfast in West Gippsland.
“I could never retire. It’s too important to keep up your cognitive health,” Anita explains.
“That social interaction at the op shops is so important to stay sharp.”
Anita has laid claim to the store’s front counter, where she rings up op shop sales and chats with the regulars.
“The time just flies by every Wednesday. It’s great fun and I’ve gotten to know the regulars really well. We’re on first-name basis!”, she says.
“Some people come in and I can tell they are lonely. They stay for a chat. I like giving people my time.”
The Cheltenham op shop is known for its music and great clothing donations. Jason, the Store Coordinator, used to manage a music store, and has a ‘huge knowledge of music’.
“Every Wednesday, Jason plays me the soundtrack of my life. Where else do they make you your very own playlist?” she says.
Anita encourages others to get involved in volunteering, even if they feel a little apprehensive.
“Many people are put off from volunteering because they don’t feel comfortable doing certain things, or feel it’s going to be a huge time commitment,” Anita says.
“But Jason has made sure to play to everyone’s strengths – and there are plenty of areas of the Mission where you can volunteer.
“Even if you only have a few hours a week, it’s a huge help – do what you can do.
“The rewards are so great. To know that every time you make a $4 sale, you’re providing a meal to someone for a day, it’s such a great feeling.”
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