The St Vincent de Paul Society, or Vinnies as most of us know it, is one of the largest charities in Australia.
Vinnies is probably best known for their op-shops. The West End Vinnies on Montague Road is one of approximately 30 op-shops across Brisbane. It is a great place to discover new treasures and find some fabulous clothes, but Vinnie’s mission is also to support people in need through their Aged Care, Drug and Alcohol, emergency assistance and homelessness support programs.
Vinnies has had an op shop in West End for many years, and before the move to Montague Road three years ago, they occupied premises in the middle of Boundary Street. Vinnies’ West End Coordinator, Leonie Simpson, said the Boundary Street shop became too small for the West End population. The much larger Montague Road premises is now a trendy destination in the suburb, and she thinks the move has been positive for the community.
After the disruption of COVID and the recent flood, Vinnies is back and operating.
Leonie says she loves Vinnies because everyone feels welcome.
“We get everybody from kids to parents, and trendy hipsters. We get a lot of elderly people – we just get everyone – which I think is a really beautiful sense of community.”
One arm of Vinnies that people may not know about is their support for people in particular need. This can be a voucher to spend in the store or assistance with electricity bills and sometimes rent. Financial support for its programs comes from the Vinnies retail shops, government grants and private donations.
What you can buy
There is nothing ‘old and musty’ about Vinnies in West End. The shop is large and spacious, and the goods on display are clean and neat and often look new. Indeed, some are new.
As well as clothes, Vinnies stocks, bags, games, kitchenware, books, bedding, and some furniture.
“We have had boogie boards, roller skates, and pasta machines,” Leonie said.
“It’s surprising actually how much new stuff we get. We get a lot of items that have never been used. Games that still have their labels, and brand-new shoes. So, it’s really great that you can come here and get something that is brand new, but at half the cost of a retail shop.”
Leonie said wholesalers, or shops that have closed down, often donate new items as well.
Vinnies also has a line of furniture made by a company in China. Items include TV stands, lounges, and sofa beds.
“They’re really practical and great for people who maybe can’t afford an expensive lounge. We’ve sold a lot of them in the last few years.”
I was impressed by the large selection of books, all in excellent condition. There is also an extensive collection of DVDs and CDs to select from.
Vinnies will accept donations, but donated goods must be good quality. For example, wearable clothing and shoes are accepted in very good condition to excellent condition, and other items include sheets, bedding and towels, toys, games, and books.
“We don’t sell things that are not in good condition. So unfortunately, if it is wearing out, we just we have to put it in the bin.”
Vinnies will accept electrical goods in good condition, but they don’t take any electrical items with a heating element. So, no kettles, coffee machines, heaters, or hairdryers.
“We don’t sell fans either. But we do tag and test other electrical items.
A retro vintage hot lips phone was among the unique items Leonie has seen donated to Vinnies over the years.
“Every day like you’ll just go, “oh my god, what is this?” and you have to try and work out what the items is. It’s like Christmas – what are you going to find today?”
“Some of the vintage items we get, like old glassware, you never see that again.”
Vinnies does not have a donations bin at the front of the store because in the past a lot of rubbish was dumped. So, if you want to donate, you will need to take items during business hours.
“You can’t leave goods at the front of the shop, because that’s actually illegal dumping and you could get fined by Brisbane City Council.”
“We get a lot of stuff that we have to put straight into the bin. And we spend a lot on dumping items that are not usable. So please give us good quality items only,” Leonie said.
Vinnies in West End has about twenty volunteers, though Leonie says COVID and COVID anxiety has had an impact on people’s availability.
“We’ve got everybody from over fifties to young school students. I just had a school high school student here doing some hours for one of her subjects at school. We’ve got Work for the Dole people and we’ve got people who are doing their volunteer work as an over 55. And we’ve got people who just want to connect with the community and make some friends, or they love op shops, or just want to stay busy if they’re retired.”
“We also have people who have other challenges in their life. We have a young lady who had an accident so she can’t necessarily do a full-time job. She loves coming here and helping, and it’s really cool, because you can work on the counter, you can work out the back, and you can mix it up – it’s fun and interesting.”
Leonie said they desperately need more volunteers if anyone is interested. Training is usually on the job.
“You don’t have to be on the front line. You can be out the back helping sort and pricing donations.”
“You’re working in a team and we’re in a really cooperative environment – that’s one of the best things about volunteering at Vinnies, I think.”
See more about volunteering for Vinnies here – https://www.vinnies.org.au/page/Get_Involved/Become_a_volunteer/
381 Montague Road, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Telephone (07) 3844 0459
Monday to Friday – 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
Saturday – 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Sunday – closed