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Ursula Tunks (centre) with some of the volunteers at ‘Mend and Make Do’ op shop, in Through Street, South Grafton. Image: Lynne Mowbray

More than just making do

Lynne Mowbray |

South Grafton’s ‘Mend and Make Do’ Op Shop, has been receiving a bit of publicity recently after taking out the ‘Clarence Valley Living Sustainably Award’ as well as a feature on the ABC’s ‘Women’s Work’, program.

South Grafton’s Ursula Tunks said that she kicked off the group around four years ago.

“The group began as a Facebook group, to share ideas about surviving when you’ve got nothing, except creativity,” Ms Tunks said.

“The new school of arts had asked me to run a craft group, so we started that as a recycling based craft group and then (one day) I stumbled over toiletries that were in their store room. I was told that the housing inter-agency had been trying for three years to get kits together (containing basic toiletry items), so I said ‘leave it to us’.

“We grew from there and voted to incorporate in our own right.

“As we expanded we had to find our own place and we got the op shop (building) two years ago and the sales from there, fund the rent and electricity.

“In October last year we got the studio shed and at the end of June (this year) we got the shed at the end of the studio shed, to sort the donations in,” she said.

The group have their op shop outlet (in Through Street, South Grafton) which sells second hand goods to the public. Their volunteers also put together basic emergency packs including toiletry items for the different agencies, which assist the homeless and those dealing with financial hardship.

“Our distribution network is now from Brisbane to Port Macquarie and we provide packs to any agency that have a homelessness program or an emergency relief function.

“We provide the packs to the agencies, which pass them on to those doing it tough.

“It takes the pressure off us because we don’t have to verify if someone is in need because the agencies have the expertise, so they know.

“Occasionally an agency will send people to us with a letter letting us know that they are doing it tough and they have just found them a home; so we can set them up with linen and kitchen items etc.

“This place is all run by volunteers; we’ve got people through work for the dole, the over 55’s and people that work and come in on the weekend.

“We probably have about 20 different volunteers who help out on varying scales and we even have volunteers who volunteer from home.

“Our oldest volunteer is 100 and she’s a part of the Dougherty Villa knitting team who knit for us. The guy who services our sewing machines is 86 and yet we have school kids who come in and volunteer during their holidays. So whoever’s got a skill, is included – there’s no exclusion.

“Recently we had a video made as an entry into the Clarence Valley Living Sustainably awards for this year, which we won.

“I posted that video online and the next thing I knew, Cathy Jacobs from the ABC’s ‘women’s work’ saw it and she decided to come and do a story on us, which has recently be aired on TV. So that was pretty cool,” she said.

The ‘Mend and Make Do’ crew accept donations of all household items (apart from furniture and white goods).

They are in desperate need of toothbrushes, tooth paste and tampons as well as larger items such as shelving and insulation to insulate their new shed.

“The wall insulation for our first shed was donated by Big River Sheds, so that was really awesome. People have helped with so many things,” Ms Tunks said.

“In the long run I’d really like to get a mobile pop up op-shop that we can take out to the smaller villages and also pick up donations; but that’s down the track,” she said.

For more information, phone: 0402 024 209