Op Shop a place for connection

Published 5:00am 6 June 2024

Op Shop a place for connection
Words by Jodie Powell

Strathpine’s YMCA Op Shop has gone from strength to strength since it opened late last year.

Manager Emma Sanders says the shop has garnered a loyal following from local fashionistas and avid readers who delight in return visits to check out new stock.

“It’s all about recycling and sustainability,” she says.

“We have groups of ladies who come in and they just love their fashions – they notice when we’ve changed our mannequins.

“We’re continually restocking – it’s a lot of fun – and people come in to see what’s arrived.

“It’s great to be able to help the community – the community helps us by giving us donations and then we follow through by raising money for YMCA programs.”

Enticing visitors

Op Shop a place for connection

With more than 35 years in retail and a lifelong op shop fan, Emma says it’s been rewarding to create a bustling op shop from scratch.

“I was a volunteer at Mango Hill for about six months and then YMCA was setting up another northside store and my manager encouraged me to apply.

“At first I thought ‘how am I going to do this?’ and then I thought about what I like as an op shopper.

“I wanted it to be open, clean and vibrant.”

Tucked between the Pine Rivers Art Gallery and Officeworks on Gympie Rd, the YMCA Strathpine Op Shop is all three, with a bright space thoughtfully laid out to entice visitors.

There’s a book section, homewares, racks of clothing complete with size wheels for ease of searching, a dedicated activewear corner, a treasure trove of toys, and more to explore.

Emma says the outlet is more than just a shop – it’s a place of connection for customers and volunteers.

Valued volunteers

Op Shop a place for connection

“Our volunteers are really varied – we have young girls who’ve never worked in a paid role.

“One was really shy and now she does everything in the shop and another one has just got a casual job because she got some work experience with us.

“My mum is one of the volunteers and she’ll be 82 this year. Everyone brings in morning tea – it’s like a little village.

“It’s all about making friends – everyone’s valued.

“We just want to help the community in any way we can – whether it’s just a chat or to help people in hardship.”

Emma says she was drawn to working with YMCA op shops because of the programs that are supported by their profits.

“YMCA helps 130 schools across south-east Queensland with the Breakfast Programs and we have a Cancer Survivor Program – that’s what I really liked when I started as a volunteer, the programs we support.

“It’s so rewarding.”

YMCA Op Shop Strathpine is open Monday-Saturday, 9am-4pm and donations can be made during opening hours.

The shop is at 130 Gympie Rd, Strathpine.

Survivor program changing lives

Op Shop a place for connection

Bree Halloran is the fitness manager at YMCA Bowen Hills and also runs the Cancer Survivor Program.

It’s a free 12-week program for people who have cancer or are recovering from cancer.

“There’s a lot of evidence that it really helps if they’re well enough to come,” Bree says.

“It takes people through strength training, fitness, flexibility and general health and wellbeing.

“One of the biggest things people say they get out of the program is the social support and talking to people who have been through similar treatments.”

Program participant Rob was diagnosed with Primary CNS Lymphoma, a form of brain cancer, in 2015.

He says the diagnosis brought with it lots of uncertainty and treatment was intense.

“I lost 20 kg,” Rob recalls.

“I saw a poster at the hospital talking about this program.

“The Cancer Survivor Program was transformational for me, because all of a sudden, I was with people just like me.

“It was almost like we all found our tribe and it was this.

“It’s not just about coming here to do exercise… it’s also about coming here to be part of something which is making a difference to all of us.”


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