How to engage the community and lead people to the church? Diana Ferrari’s answer to this question was to start an op shop at The Parish of Freshwater’s Deception Bay church in May 2019. Her idea had the blessing of The Rev’d Claye Middleton who had previously co-founded the church’s Community Cafe (formerly The Well). Diana’s vision was to attract people in the community who would spend time at the shop, linger over coffee from the cafe, and become acquainted with the church and its members.
Another motivation for founding the op shop was to raise funds to support a full-time minister. Over the years, op shop revenue has become a key funding source for our parish. Its establishment has been a group effort: the numerous clothes racks, fittings and fixtures used to display goods were donated by generous parishioners.
Diana, now in her seventies, has been a member of the congregation for 10 years. She manages the op shop and the dozen volunteers, who assist with sorting, pricing and selling the clothing, books, shoes and kitchenware. Whilst the op shop is currently only open on Wednesdays from 9 am to 2 pm, Diana works extra hours to organise and price newly donated items. There are also periodic working bees for volunteers to sort goods and clean storage space.
Diana previously worked as a kitchen supervisor in an aged care facility where she gained experience in food service and staff management. These skills have been valuable in serving the parish, as she recruits and supervises volunteers, and advises on the church kitchen and Community Cafe.
Diana is a popular and admired figure, both for her work ethic and great sense of humour. At the parish’s Christmas market, Diana sold scones with cream. With a wink, she told wavering customers the scones were calorie-free, and that she had worked hard to remove the calories.
Volunteer Darlene Seeger is the op shop’s assistant coordinator. Her welcoming smile and ready assistance make customers’ shopping experience a happy one. There are many repeat customers and Darlene greets them each by name.
Goods available for sale overflow the limited op shop space into the church’s office building. Bins of clothes stored in an adjacent shed (donated by the Anglican Men’s Society) are carried out to the outside undercover area for shoppers’ perusal. Likewise, racks of clothes are kept in the op shop and rolled outside, so there is adequate aisle space in the indoor op shop. Donations of goods from parishioners and the community are so plentiful and storage space so limited that Diana regularly needs to halt accepting donated goods.
Inflation and higher mortgage payments are squeezing family budgets, so more people now consider buying from op shops, where prices might be a tenth of the retail price for new goods. Books are $1. Children’s clothes are 50 cents and clothes for adults range from $1 to $4. Suits and evening wear start at $5. The first Wednesday of the month is the fill-a-bag sale day. Customers can fill a grocery bag with books, shoes and colour-tagged clothes and pay only $5. These days, people are less embarrassed about buying used goods, especially when families can save hundreds of dollars.
After paying for their bargains, customers often have a cuppa. The Community Cafe sells barista coffee, tea, toasties and muffins. There are usually several church members available for a conversation. Over time, and over a cuppa, some customers are led to joining the church.
In the future, Diana and the merry band of volunteers would like to have a purpose-built structure for exclusive op shop use. It would provide more retail and storage space and would minimise time spent setting up and putting away. Funding is the hurdle, but the power of prayer and perseverance will surely make the dream a reality.Jump to next article