This is the second part of a two-part series on the wonderful Southbridge volunteer team.
The Re-use Shop is a loved part of the Huon Valley community and we chatted to long-term volunteers Petey, Dimity, Robby and Store Manager Sue about what it’s like behind the scenes.
Thank you to all who took part.
Room for everyone
Each volunteer at Southbridge has their own area of expertise.
Robby often looks after the plants, Petey is in the workshop testing and tagging items like electrical goods, and Dimity is “interior designer” of the display table – something she says has become a labour of love, with little tips like colour coordination and moving an item to eye level making all the difference.
“I often just change the tablecloth… I think, why hasn’t that sold? That should sell,” she says.
“It’s a little game… I think I’m going to re-market it – it’s really got to go. And usually it’s gone in two minutes!”
Originally a shopper herself, Dimity asked about a volunteering position at a time when her husband was going through cancer treatment.
“I thought I just need a day where I don’t think about health,” she says.
“It has been fantastic, we have a lot of laughs.”
While the job often has a lighter side, there are inevitable frustrations and sometimes tension when it comes to waste disposal.
On average, Southbridge records 1850 transactions a month, with 247 tonnes of useable material diverted from landfill through the resale of furniture, books, homewares, garden supplies and building materials.
The volunteers are passionate about the centre’s contribution and the value of the services it provides.
And they say patience, understanding and kindness go a long way.
“I think the interesting thing about here is, you’ve got the whole range,” says Dimity.
“You’ve got the itinerant backpackers, the fruit pickers – there’s a whole group of islanders come over and you know when they’re coming, because they start their trek into Huonville into the shops, and then they realise there’re bikes here.”
“So they come and buy their bikes. And it’s quite interesting – then they decorate their bikes with music and horns and lights. Then they come over quite often and get their tyres pumped up.”
“They get friendlier… they buy toys to send back to their kids and show us their photos. It’s really nice.”
“Sometimes (they come over) four times a day!” says Petey.
“We’re living in the community, so this is our community.”
Sculptors are another favourite.
“There’s a sculptor has moved into somewhere and he comes looking here and gets all these amazing bits that you might think are rubbish… he’s going to put them into garden art, installation art” says Dimity.
Southbridge is even home to resident well-behaved cat TK, and at one point a puddle-loving platypus, Tippy.
A bright future
The Re-use Shop also supports a lot of charitable community organisations.
“They’re well looked after – it might be plates, for schools and things. This is the stuff that goes on that no-one’s aware of,” says Petey.
At the time of writing, Sue was contacted by someone wanting to put Christmas trees into nursing homes.
“They were 10 dollars each but I’m not going to charge her, I’m going to donate them,” says Sue.
“I put them in the book, and she’s picking them up tomorrow and they’re going to be donated. You have to be kind and generous, because we get the stuff for nothing as well.”
The facility has been described as the “best presented recycle centre” shoppers have seen.
“We’ve had that comment quite often, and that inspires you to do well,” says Robby.
“Because your efforts aren’t wasted. It’s a great place to work, a great place to be.”
“It’s just this melting pot of people, and that to me is one of the best things. Everyone has to go to the tip. So it’s a leveller. Your garbage is the same as everybody else’s.”
Sue says she couldn’t be prouder of her team.
“My favourite motto is, this place might be a tip but it doesn’t have to look like a dump,” she says.
“Word of mouth’s the way, and I think that’s why this place is so good.”
*see below for more members of the volunteer team. Merry Christmas!