22 August, 2019

The Mitcham ADRA Op shop is a humble store located on the outskirts of Melbourne selling various clothing and household items to shoppers. Those who come into the store are welcomed by the store’s manager Marina Wirenski and the volunteers that help keep the store in order. Marina promotes meeting the needs of those who enter the outlet not just through their products, but through their conversations.

“Our patrons become valuable to us not only as customers but as people with their individual story to share,” Marina says.

One of those visitors is Mark who comes along every week to talk with the volunteers and show off his hats from Russia, Ukraine, Finland, and other various parts of Europe. He tells them various parts of his travels as an English teacher and the different situations he has gone through, inspiring the volunteers.

Lady wearing a military hat from Europe

Marina trying on one of Mark’s hats

The store is committed to helping the community in more ways than talking to patrons and selling products. They also give students the opportunity for work experience from local schools, such as Nunawading Christian College. The store has been able to build up the students in their confidence and teach them how to care for a local community.

“We had a young student, Jacob, from the Victorian School for the Deaf in St Kilda, volunteer at our shop for work experience,” Marina explains. “His school, as well as his parents, were delighted with his progress in communication and overall confidence skills during his time at the ADRA shop in Mitcham!”

Jacob sent a letter to the Op Shop after his experience:

Thank you card from child

Jacob’s letter to Marina

For others, like Peter, the Op Shop provides a haven in a time when life is becoming increasingly tough. He regularly visits Mitcham Op Shop and Marina says, “He finds acceptance, understanding and compassion in our ADRA shop.”

Older man, Peter, with ADRA Op Shop manager Marina.

Peter visiting the Op Shop

And for Cody, the Op Shop is her favourite place to purchase a doll or two as gifts to give to children. She has become a dear friend to all of the Op Shop volunteers.

Older woman with the Op Shop manager

Cody regularly drops in to buy a doll from the Op Shop

When it comes to helping a community, the goal is to make relationships with anyone that comes through. “I feel we all are positioned in life to connect to the displaced, the artists, the models, the designers, the retired teachers, the hungry, and the vulnerable,” Marina says.

Words: Jefferson Shaw