Raquel Stevens

Daylesford’s beloved Christmas in July fundraiser, a beacon of hope for many, is back with more festive cheer!

Hepburn Regional Community Cheer hopes to raise more than $50,000 this year to help those in need.

Former HRCC President, Michelle Clifford, who also runs the Daylesford Opportunity Shop, says now more than ever, we need to dig deep.

How important is this event to the community? 

Imperative. It allows HRCC to function and provide benevolent relief to those in our community for whatever reason are experiencing financial hardship. More importantly, it’s for the children and youth of those families. It’s also an important event as it ties together many different organisations who work together as a team.

What is your role with the Daylesford Op Shop? 

I’m the Director of DCOS on the committee of management. This is my 13th year. I am also a daily manager, welfare manager along with 2 social workers. Our committee manages the behind the scenes admin whilst our extremely generous and altruistic volunteers work not just when the shop is open for retail, but after hours, sorting, cleaning & visual merchandising. Without them we couldn’t run.

Has demand increased recently? 

We have a very compassionate community who donate a lot of fabulous goods which are sold to allow us to support and uplift our community. We are 100% volunteer and 100% of our profits stay in our Shire. We need more shoppers as our supply is fabulous. We are seeing a genuine need for goods and services, along with welfare. We don’t receive government funding or tip vouchers from the Council which makes it difficult to deal with the increased impacts of poverty. Especially as we have a housing crisis where families just can’t afford the skyrocketing rents & lack of public/ social housing.

How difficult is it for people to ask for help?

It’s hard to swallow your pride and say, ‘I can’t find any other way, please help me.’ It’s agonising, to be honest. It takes a lot of guts and courage to ask.

What’s the most frustrating part of running an op shop? 

Whilst the majority of people wash and make sure items are not broken there is a small percentage of people who use us as a tip. Donating soiled clothing, dumping goods that are broken and cost us a packet to remove. One of our highest outgoings is tip & rubbish removal.

Op shopping is now on trend. Does that concern you as perhaps it reduces the selection for those who truly need it? 

We love the fact that op shopping has become cool. Our moto of reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle allows us to be environmentally kind and reduces our carbon footprint. We don’t mind who purchases our goods or what they do with them once they leave the shop. We just need the money to help support those in hardship. No one should ever go without. We have a voucher system with many other organisations who can give their clients access to our goods, along with our own social workers. We are a team effort.

If you had a magic wand, what would you do?

Lol my wish list is endless, but I think mostly I would wave that glittery wand and remove poverty. The veneer of Hepburn Shire is of affluence when in fact the majority are low incomes.

Volunteer Sharon at the Daylesford Community Op Shop. (Photo: Raquel Stevens)

How important are the volunteers? 

Our volunteers, whether in the shop or on committee provide a special service which I feel people don’t appreciate enough sometimes. They are our entrusted conduit providing a share in community wealth, inclusion, choice without discrimination, equity, safety, health & benevolence. They are the bones of DCOS & it’s one of the hardest volunteering jobs one can do. It’s physically challenging, emotionally taxing at times. We are so much more than just an op shop.

Tips for op shopping or donating? 

If you wouldn’t buy it or give it as a gift don’t donate it. Or ring and ask if we will take it.

What changes have you noticed over the years? 

Families needing extra support especially with school items.

What’s your least liked donation? Most liked donation? 

Baby clothes that are soiled.  Collectables & antiques.

Have you received any ‘surprises’ like $10,000 stuffed in an old couch? 

Not as such unfortunately. We did have a pair of Manolo Blahnik which we sold for $50 and the young lass cried and hugged us all.  We had one lady lose her purse with her passport and $6000 in it, as she was on her way to the airport and a customer handed it in. Another lady accidently donated about $50,000 worth of jewellery. We managed to get it all back minus a diamond bracelet and pearls. Thank goodness for our security cameras.

If a Wombat walked into the Op shop in a top hat, what would it say? 

 Ha ha, well of course one would say, “do you need tails with that?” Boom boom.

Funds raised from the ‘Christmas in July’ event will help so many families. What’s your Christmas wish for the Daylesford Community this year? 

That people realise how fortunate they are, and give back to those who may not be, without judgement. And of course, lots of cheer.

Christmas in July will be held at the Farmers’ Arms Hotel on July 26th.  

The event is a sell out, but this year’s HRCC auction will be open to the general public from Sunday 16th July at 7:30pm to Monday 24th July at 5:00pm for email bids. Items can be viewed via www.facebook.com/HepburnRegionalCommunityCheer once the auction opens. Please bid generously – it’s for a great cause!

Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.