In 2016, Dominique Brindley wandered past our East St Kilda op shop and saw a sign calling for volunteers. She went in, expressed interest, and the rest is history.
Dominique had been looking for a volunteering opportunity that she could engage with outside of business hours, to give back to the community, and our op shops seemed like a perfect fit.
“I work predominantly in complaints and dispute resolution in government settings, so I really enjoy being able to engage with people in a friendly way in store – it’s an excellent change of pace,” she says. “I have a keen interest in fashion. I love sorting out the mannequins and rotating stock around so everyone can see what we’ve got and find something great.”
Dominique knows how important our op shops are to Sacred Heart Mission’s clients. Our programs will frequently ask our op shops to put items aside for clients who have immediate need for clothing and other material goods.
She has also noticed many new customers coming into East St Kilda this year that she’s never met before, who are citing the rising costs of living as a reason to start looking for second-hand items. Dominque makes sure to greet everyone with a smile, so they know they are welcome within the space.
During the pandemic, Dominique covered extra shifts at the Elsternwick store when they were short staffed. She appreciated being able to get out of the house and engage with customers and other staff and volunteers when she was otherwise working full-time from home.
Since joining Sacred Heart Mission, Dominique has become an advocate for op shopping herself and now buys most of her clothing this way. “People often assume I started volunteering because I love op shops, but it was actually the other way around,” she says.
“It’s opened my eyes to the environmental and labour issues with fast fashion, and I’ve started encouraging other people to consider purchasing second-hand items from charities more, and to donate items they no longer need. I honestly believe individuals can make a difference when they are considerate and thoughtful with their purchases.”
Dominique enjoys interacting with customers and forming connections with them. Recently, Dominique assisted a woman to purchase some bargains for an upcoming holiday with her daughter. “It was clear to me the customer was lacking confidence when she came in. Her face really lit up when I provided honest but helpful advice, and she thanked me for taking the time to spend with her so she would feel good about wearing brighter colours on her trip,” she says.
Dominique encourages everyone to volunteer if they have an interest in contributing to their community. “I’d say, give it a go! Even if you don’t have experience, the staff will teach you. “It is a relaxed environment, where I feel free to be myself – that’s what I love about being a volunteer.”
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