IT was the trip to Ireland which did it.
Michele Ballantyne had been thinking about volunteering at Orphans Aid International (OAI) charity shop for a while, but just hadn’t got around to doing anything about it.
When her mother, Theresa Shields, a volunteer at the shop, went to Ireland on holiday, Mrs Ballantyne took her place at the shop.
She described the holiday work as a “tester”.
That was in July, 2009.
With a background in retail and almost nine years later, Mrs Ballantyne’s flair for design, display and retail shows in the various window and other displays throughout the store.
“She has a good eye for detail… and makes things look more attractive,” shop manager Kathryn Casey said.
Mrs Ballantyne said now her two children were grown up, the volunteering also helped her “get out of the house”.
“If you are having a bad day… by the time you have spent some time at the shop… you end up laughing. I call it my happy place.”
Mrs Shields began volunteering early in 2008.
“My sister was living with me who also worked at Orphans Aid when it was in Tay St. Once I was retired, I decided to have a go.”
The organisation and shop which helps people, especially children, both locally and internationally, has been operating for the past 13 years.
Asked what motivated her to work for OAI in particular, Mrs Shields said: “Every child deserves to be loved… if we all do our bit… it’s lovely to hear and see the work [which OAI achieves overseas in particular with the orphans]… and also our manager, Kathryn who has a wonderful sense of humour.”
Mrs Ballantyne agreed.
“Every child should have what my children had.”
Some of their highlights throughout their combined two decades included being part of the Upcycled Fashion Shows, the Women’s Expos and the pop-up shops on Stewart Island and lower Spey St.
Mrs Shields said she was looking forward to seeing how the various overseas projects grew, and also the shops in New Zealand, as they helped fund the work the organisation did.
“When I started there was only one shop, now there are five.”
They both also talked about how much fun they had at the shop.
“It’s a great team to work with… and way of meeting people. We get to know the regulars, as well as the other volunteers, and build friendships.”
Mrs Casey said the women were both “huge assets”.
The heart of the shop and organisation was its volunteers, she said.
“If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t exist.”
Mrs Casey said there was a diverse range of jobs available at the charity shop.
“It could be serving in the shop, greeting and assisting people, sorting and pricing goods which came in, and a variety of other jobs.”
The organisation had continued to grow, she said.
“It just keeps getting busier, especially the shop.”
Age was not a barrier either, and neither were time constraints.
“Our youngest volunteer is 15 and our oldest, at the moment, are almost 80. Some volunteers donate eight hours, some two… it depends on people’s other commitments.”
As this was National Volunteer Week, “it is a golden opportunity for people to join this wonderful team”, Mrs Casey said.
For more information about volunteering for OAI, phone Kathryn Casey on (03) 218 4940.