By Andrew Paloczi

EXECUTIVE general manager of Vinnies stores in Victoria, Jeff Antcliff, visited the Leongatha shop on Thursday, sharing a positive story of people’s generosity throughout the pandemic period.

“The donations we’ve been getting in the stores have been at a higher level than we’ve seen before,” Mr Antcliff said, attributing that to people having more time at home to sort through items.

Many of the items received are still in new condition with their original tickets attached.

Despite the community’s generosity, there is a need for more winter clothing, with the colder months fast approaching.

Items such as woollen jumpers, jackets and warm pants will soon be in great demand and there is a particular need for menswear suited to winter.

Mr Antcliff encourages those wanting to donate to pop into their Vinnies store to do so, explaining that way people can be sure goods are received in good condition, which may not be the case if items are left outside the store overnight.

“They’ll come in a bag beautifully laundered, but unfortunately by the time we get to it somebody else has opened it and had a look, or a dog’s peed on it, and there’s wind and rain and if it’s blowy you find items have spread down the road,” he said, outlining what can occur when items are left outside.

“It’s really important to donate into the shop; it gives us a chance to say thank you and it’s good for you to come and see what we do with donations.”

Coming into the store provides the added advantage of being able to pick up some bargains, with people often visiting to donate and leaving with a few new or pre-loved items.

Vinnies sells a range of new goods under its own brand that people need, such as tea towels, blankets, socks, towels and face washers, and even mattresses.

Where possible, items are Australian made, such as mattresses from Melbourne’s Thomastown.

Vinnies sells many donated electrical items which are tested and tagged to ensure they are safe.

Mr Antcliff said this year, across Victoria, Vinnies expects to save more than 75,000 electrical items from going into landfill.

The organisation’s environmental efforts are extensive, with stores being converted to solar energy.

Not only is that a win for the environment, but power cost savings will enable Vinnies to do more for those in need in local communities.

The Wonthaggi Vinnies store has already switched to solar power, with others in the area, including Leongatha and Korumburra, set to follow.

Vinnies is always keen to take on new volunteers, with Leongatha store manager Debra Kennedy explaining those coming on board will benefit from the experience.

“It’s a fun atmosphere to work in and you get to make new friends and learn new skills,” she said.

The Leongatha Vinnies store has volunteers ranging in age from 17 to 93.

John Casey fits into the latter category and enjoys his volunteer role so much he was out the back of the shop working on his 93rd birthday, sorting donated items.

He’s been involved with the St Vincent De Paul Society for about 40 years, assisting in stores and in groups of volunteers known as ‘conferences’, which assist people in various ways with the aid of funding raised through Vinnies stores.

“It’s a tremendous feeling to be wanted,” John said of his ongoing commitment to Vinnies.