National Volunteers Week: Volunteers the lifeblood of Lifeline

Wingham Lifeline volunteers: Barbara Walker and Susan Ballard.
Wingham Lifeline volunteers: Barbara Walker and Susan Ballard.

Wingham Lifeline (as well as Taree) has re-opened its doors this week following the coronavirus lockdown.

In what is also National Volunteers Week (May 18 to 24), the shop manager at Wingham Lifeline Beth Byrne has spoken about her community and the volunteers who operate the shop.

"I value and love them so much," said Beth.

"They are the lifeblood of our service and without the shop volunteers, we could not carry on the lifesaving services of Lifeline.

"Sometimes they are the forgotten heroes of this story.

"Coincidentally this is National Volunteers Week, so I am celebrating them - on social media and in person - as our shop has re-opened this week after the lockdown."

The Wingham shop opened in September last year and Lifeline retail manager Jemma McDonald said they chose this new location to raise awareness of Lifeline in the Wingham area.

"The opening of the Wingham shop had been something we've had in the pipeline for a while. It was just a matter of waiting for the right opportunity and the right space to come along."

The right space did come along and subsequently, Beth Byrne was employed as the shop manager.

She and Jemma went about completely renovating a former Ford dealership, giving it a complete facelift while still retaining the industrial garage style vibe.

Nestled along the bustling main street of Wingham, when the Lifeline Shop opened its door to the public for the first time, visitors had expected a traditional charity shop set up, but were surprised to discover a large, light-filled space and browsing friendly layout offering a rich assortment of good quality items.

"We are delighted by the generous size of the store which affords us to increase the number of departments we can include and furniture we can feature," said Beth.

"The shop is a treasure trove of donated items, some new and other pre-loved, that change every single day.

"Treasure hunters will find just about anything from furniture, artwork, fashion, designer labels, footwear, men's and children's wear to fine china, homewares, toys and an impressive collection of books, CDs, DVDs and vinyls.

"Volunteer staff often report on customers who have expressed delight over their amazing low-cost purchases and 'lucky finds'."

Volunteer Rita Palmer and shop manager Beth Byrne.

Volunteer Rita Palmer and shop manager Beth Byrne.

Former model and makeup artist, Beth joins the shop with a great passion and love of upcycling and recycling and a background in merchandising.

"I've always been obsessed with upcycling and repurposing items. Sustainability is always in the forefront of my mind and I love revamping old furniture rather than buying brand new, knowing what a great environmental and waste reducing impacts I'm personally making.

"As well as helping to save the planet, it is so much fun! I love injecting my personality into low-cost items that are one of a kind."

Operated by Lifeline Mid Coast, the Wingham Shop has been warmly received by the community.

"Our services are made possible by the wonderful efforts of our volunteers and through the generous donations and support of locals," says Beth. "We seriously can't believe how well supported the shop has been."

Lifeline crisis support benefits from new store

Not only does the Lifeline outlet add a quirky new vibe and appealing destination for the Wingham community, those who shop there know they are making a contribution to helping Lifeline save lives.

"Lifeline Shops are a significant contributor to our ability to provide vital suicide prevention and crisis support services to our community and the revenue raised by this Lifeline Shop will significantly contribute to our ability to do this," said marketing co-ordinator Lisa Willows.

"We have seen a huge increase in pressure to raise money to support our services as the retail industry becomes a harder space to succeed and this shop will alleviate that pressure."

The shop is located in the old Hawkins Ford building at 41 Isabella Street, Wingham, a location that has a lot of history.

Donation bins stand proudly in the parking area, featuring the art of acclaimed artist Adam Murray.

Business manager Kurt Russell said "after searching far and wide Wingham was the best place to open a new shop and we could not be happier with our choice."

"We are hoping it is embraced as it becomes part of the towns fabric and culture of recycling."

Lifeline will answer one million calls this year and the demand for Lifeline services continues to grow with more people than ever before using the service.

For suicide prevention and crisis support services call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or connect online at www.lifeline.org.au.

Connect with Wingham Lifeline Shop www.facebook.com/winghamlifelineshop or Lifeline Mid Coast at www.lifelinemidcoast.org.au

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