Debt Counseling, Haircuts, Free Food, and Scholarship Funding

ADRA-managed store is transforming a local community in Australia.

Maryellen Hacko, Adventist Record
Debt Counseling, Haircuts, Free Food, and Scholarship Funding

To better serve their local community, Hillview Seventh-day Adventist Church members relocated their Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) thrift shop from Tuggerah to larger premises in Morisset, New South Wales, Australia, in August 2020. Now they are closer to where volunteers live, allowing the shop to be a more effective community hub, managers said. Alongside providing affordable household and clothing items, the facility offers important services to the community.

Locally known as the David Jones Op Shop, running the 1,000-square-meter (10,700 square-foot) shop is no small feat, even for 70 enthusiastic volunteers. There are no paid workers on site.

“Some of the volunteers are from church, and we’ve got community members involved too. Just yesterday, two people came in to buy goods and said they would love to volunteer with us,” volunteer day manager Beverley Chapman said.

Store manager Paul Rankin said that while the thrift shop generates a good profit each day, the focus is not on profit but on “creating opportunities” and doing the loving thing. With many homeless and disadvantaged people in the area, profits earned are intentionally reinvested into providing services and ministries that can enable the less fortunate to seek a better life for themselves.

“I’d say we get well more than 100 people a day,” Chapman continued. “There’s a wide variety — well-to-dos, professionals, and those who are really needy. People are coming in for the social benefits as well. It’s just fabulous as far as outreach goes, and the fact that we can put some funds back is really good.”

Selling clothing, furniture, and bric-a-brac items, Rankin and all of the volunteers intentionally create opportunities and build positive relationships with volunteers, customers, those who donate items, and the wider community.

One of the ways they do this is by channeling profits into community projects: hosting a CAP Debt Centre that provides free financial counseling for people struggling with debt, and funding tertiary scholarships for six Morisset High School students so that teenagers from lower-income families can attend university.

In addition, local residents can visit the center to receive a haircut from “Community Hair Project” volunteers — a mobile service providing free haircuts to Central Coast and Lake Macquarie residents. Currently, it’s the only location in Morisset offering this service.

Twice a week, free food is also available at the shop, thanks to store profits being used to assist with the purchase of a food van and provide for ongoing fuel costs.

“This op shop is just like an upmarket shop, not a run-of-the-mill op shop,” Hillview member Mary Fedorow said. “It makes us proud to be Hillview members when we see how much of a blessing it is to the community.”

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.

Maryellen Hacko, Adventist Record