FOR a quarter of a century a small op shop on the corner of Boon and Richardson streets has grown a loyal following of customers and volunteers.
One of those volunteers, Colleen Yardley, was hard at work at Opportunity Knocks this week as the store celebrated its 25th birthday.
Colleen has been volunteering at Opportunity Knocks for 17 years and says many customers have become regulars – coming in to look for a bargain and have a chat – over many years.
The shop offers good used clothing for everyone, a selection of books, crockery and glassware, craft bits and pieces, jewellery and other interesting items.
It also has a selection of small cook books, with simple, tried and true recipes. These were put together by the ladies of the shop and are great for those on a budget or with limited cooking skills.
In the past, it used to sell electrical goods. But with tighter regulations regarding safety, it doesn’t sell those anymore, said Colleen. “But we still sell just about anything.”
“And we couldn’t do it without the community,” she said, adding how appreciative they are of all the goods, many top-quality items, the community donates to the store. “We get beautiful things given to us.”
Whakatane Presbyterian Parish opened the doors of Opportunity Knocks on July 14, 1992 and it has become known as “the little boutique on Boon Street” by its many faithful regular local customers, and a popular shop for visitors to fossick in.
Secretary Lesley Swindells was among the original group, including the shop’s first convenor, Vonnie Schonveld, and Shirley Joss, who still work regularly in the store.
Lesley said the late Pearl Ellis was the visionary who saw the need in the growing town for an opportunity shop and, with a dedicated group, the shop was opened for five days a week.
The shop is now staffed by 25 volunteers six days a week from 10am to 4pm and Saturday mornings 10am to 12 noon.
And she said the volunteers, ladies and men, have had lots of interesting incidents.
“A favourite is the story of someone buying a pair of socks and finding a little hole in one. ‘No trouble,’ says the lady behind the counter. ‘I will darn it for you’. ‘What is darn?’ was the reply. How things have changed.”
Lesly said they had also managed to return old photos donated in error back to families.
Fancy dress events in town often bring in customers to find something different.
“Recently, a young man came in very excited as he had just been employed for an after school job. Perfect black dress trousers were on the rack – $5 and with a belt for $1 – another very happy customer was clothed for a very reasonable cost.”
Colleen is very proud that nothing goes to waste in the store.
“We waste very little. We clear the racks every three months and clothing that hasn’t sold sells for $1.”
“Clothes that are faded sell for 50c – a lot of people buy these for farm work. One young man who is doing a concreting apprenticeship gets all his jeans from that box.”
Even items that cannot be sold are put to good use. Colleen says very old and worn clothes are ripped into rags and motor vehicle repair shops buy them for their mechanics to use while working.
Lesley said the purpose of the shop was to provide fellowship for women from the Presbyterian Parish by working together.
She said a number of volunteers are not members of the church, but see it as a way to serve the community, as much of the profit is given back into our town by means of donations for community projects or needs.
In fact, in 2016, more than $14,600 was given to 27 groups, sports clubs and other organisations in the town.
“We are very grateful and honoured that over the past 25 years we have been able to help our parish and community with the proceeds from our sales.
“We are truly grateful for the generous support we have received by way of donations of clothing and bric-a-brac from the community.”