A WONTHAGGI op shop has been forced to temporarily close following allegations of theft.
The Wonthaggi Lifeline Gippsland store closed in July and police are investigating alleged stolen money.
The volunteer-run charity store has up to 25 volunteers and it’s expected a meeting will be held with volunteers within the coming weeks on the future of the store.
Lifeline Gippsland acting CEO David Rohde said the closure was a result of “unforeseen circumstances”.
“Look, we’re really upset for the impact that the closure’s had on the region,” he said. It was run by some very generous volunteers, and staff members to help. I really can’t go into any detail, apart from saying that there was potential misconduct and it’s currently being investigated by the local police there in Wonthaggi.”
Three donation bins in Wonthaggi were removed last month and Mr Rohde pinned it on “changes” to the shop.
A local charity has been helping share the workload, storing and sorting out excess donations from the closed shop.
“Essentially, it was a matter of how we were going to manage the collection of those bins,” Mr Rohde said. Not just in Wonthaggi, but every donation bin, we get some really good donations, which is appreciated.”
“What you also get is rubbish dumped. But it is only a small percentage.”
He said Lifeline Gippsland had two choices, get complaints from local businesses about rubbish being left around, or remove the donation bins.
“We’ve removed them until we work out exactly what’s happening with the shop.
“We essentially rely on our volunteers to help out with bits and pieces, and one of those is looking after the bins. We can get across there (from the Latrobe Valley) once or twice a week, but sometimes that’s just not enough.”
The store closed in July and signs were put up advising customers the shop would be closed until the end of the month.
A separate handwritten sign said the shop would be closed “until further notice”.
Mr Rohde said he would have more news on the future of the store once he’s had a meeting with volunteers.
“From my point of view, yes, we want a presence there for Wonthaggi,” he said, adding that it’s a necessary shop for the region.
“Not just because of the sales it makes, but I think because of the connection Lifeline has with the community.
“We’re very much identified for our Crisis Support Line, and people do like to support us by knowing that they’re actually making a difference in the community.
“I think if you talk to a lot of the volunteers, they get a lot of people just wandering in just to say ‘Hello’, which is what we want.”
Lifeline Australia’s head office is aware of the allegations.
Bass Coast Criminal Investigation Unit (BCIU) is investigating the alleged theft of money, said Leading Senior Constable Peter Johnson.
“There are a lot documents to sort through and a lot of people to be spoken to, so the investigation could take from several weeks to several months,” he said.
A meeting will be held in the coming weeks with volunteers to decide the future of the store.
Alleged misconduct at Wonthaggi op shop