Diane De Rooy is a volunteer at the Green Connect office and op shop. She spoke to us about how she ended up in the role she loves and the most unusual donation she has seen.
What do you do at Green Connect?
I volunteer two days a week. On one of those days I work at the office, answering the phone and doing computer tasks and chatting with customers about Green Connect.
On my other day I work at the op shop, which is in the same building as the office. I sell clothes, stock the shelves, and chat with people as they come in and buy clothes.
I’d just moved to Wollongong from Bega, where I’d raised my family. I was a doctor’s receptionist for 22 years. I decided I would look for some volunteer work. My daughter drives past this building when she drops her kids off at school and one day she told me there was going to be a new op shop here.
When the shop opened we went in to check it out. I didn’t know anything about Green Connect at that stage. When I came in I thought, “Wow, this is so big, and it’s got so much stuff” and I started looking around. Then I spoke to one of the managers in the shop, and I asked if they needed volunteers. Annie came out to talk to me, and she was so friendly and welcoming. I said that I was looking at volunteering somewhere and we started chatting and before you know it, I’d signed up. I was so excited. It was meant to be, I think.
So I went home and I googled Green Connect and found out more about them and the great things they were doing and how they were helping the planet. As a Christian we are called to be stewards of the Earth and to look after it. The things that Green Connect are doing with permaculture and growing those lovely veggies, waste management and helping young people and former refugees, fits in nicely. I can make a difference through volunteering.
What’s it like working in an op shop?
I love going to op shops so it’s ideal for me. So much stuff comes in and people are so generous with their donations as well. People out the back sort the donations and price them, and then I take them out the front and put them on the shelves.
People come in looking for all sorts of things, looking for bargains or for something special they need.
Recently a person came in and her daughter was turning 12, so she wanted to have a nice party and she just needed a few extra things. So she looked through the linen and the manchester and came up with a few things and said, “Just what I need”.
There’s always a bargain. We have good quality kids clothes and there’s always a special on somewhere in the store.
You just never know what you’re going to find so you really need to go in for a day and spend a couple of hours and just wander. There’s lots of nooks and crannies where we’ve got books, glassware or kids toys. There’s just so many things.
You don’t need to buy new stuff because the things you can buy from the op shop are great quality and more interesting.
What’s the most unusual thing someone has donated?
A donation that came in a while ago and it was someone’s collection of black and white cows.
She’d been collecting them for many years but she was moving house. She had lovingly wrapped them all up and then donated them. There were all sizes and shapes of cow ornaments as well as teapots and jugs and plates. Enough to fill a whole shelf unit on its own.
A lot of customers enjoyed the display and bought something from it to take home. I did too because my husband was missing the cows on the hills in the Bega Valley.
What do you love about volunteering?
I like that I can help people. I love talking to people and hearing bits of their story and just being able to have a chat. For example, someone came into the shop the other day who was a new grandparent. They had just come back from visiting their very first grandchild and they were really eager to share that with me.
I look forward to working here each week. All the staff are friendly and it is a really relaxed place to be volunteering. They’re really supportive and encouraging.
I love telling customers about the other things Green Connect does, like the farm tour at Warrawong. That was really inspiring to me, I came home so motivated to get my compost going and I went and bought seedlings and now I’ve got vegetables growing and flowers in the vegetable garden. So I love being able to talk to people coming into the shop about what they can do too.