5 August, 2020

Even at the best of times, winter is a challenging time for the vulnerable. Warm coats and good boots can be expensive, making them difficult to come by. But with the added stress of COVID, making it through the winter would be tough.

So when a man walked through the doors of the Mitcham Op Shop on a busy July morning, he caught the attention of Marina Wiren, the Op Shop Manager. “His thick beard and weathered attire suggested his need for warm clothing for the cold days ahead,” Marina says.

The man, George*, became intrigued by a Russian war mask and he confided in Marina that he had a love for military memorabilia. After thoroughly browsing the store, he came to the counter and placed a deposit on the mask he so desperately wanted before leaving the shop.

Not long after George left, a lady approached the counter.

“I would like to pay for what that gentleman, who just left the shop, had put aside.”

The lady insisted on not only paying off what was left of the mask, but also on issuing a $50 shop voucher for George. When Marina asked for her name, she simply said ‘Cassie’.

“I have always been so blessed and I wish to bless others,” Cassie said.

Two weeks later, George returned to the shop, ready to pay off the rest of his mask. When Marina informed him that a lady had paid for his mask and given him a $50 voucher of store credit, George was overwhelmed by emotion. He couldn’t understand the kind actions of a stranger. And when Marina described the lady who had helped George, tears filled his eyes.

“He recalled how this lady comforted him when he was feeling really down, hopeless and depressed,” says Marina. While George had been in the store he had flipped through the children’s book Scuffy the Tugboat, which triggered a very dark part of his childhood. “(He felt) he was the tugboat drifting far away to the ocean and overwhelmed by the sheer size of things around him,” says Marina. “But he was finally rescued and is now content.”

Touched by the generosity of Cassie, George decided to pass the blessings on. He decided to hand his $50 shop voucher to his next door neighbour whose daughter is disabled and would need it more than him.

George’s return to Mitcham Op Shop happened just days before Victoria entered lockdown for the second time.

Marina believes that despite not being staff or a volunteer, Cassie was truly living the values of ADRA: Justice, Compassion, and Love.

“It’s not every day you come across someone so generous yet humble at the same time,” Marina says.

Though the Mitcham Op Shop has temporarily closed again in light of the stage 4 restrictions, the ADRA team in Victoria is busy preparing and distributing care packages with food and toiletries to the most vulnerable in the community.

If you would like to donate to support ADRA’s COVID response, please visit:

If you are in need of support, please contact the Victorian Conference ADRA Director Rebecca Auriant by emailing rebeccaauriant@adra.org.au.

Please note: the photos in this article depict COVID responses in Victoria from March 2020.

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