When asked to describe how a normal day at an RSPCA Op Shop operates, Chrissie and Sophie paused then smirked at one another before agreeing – “There’s no such thing”.
From prosthetic legs to Olympics medals, the hardworking duo has seen it all. Siphoning through an endless stream of lost and forgotten treasures, they unanimously describe the OP shop volunteering experience as fun and rewarding.
In many ways, they are digging through history. Each item that comes through carries with it an untold story. Most will remain a mystery, but some leave a trail of bread crumbs.
Sifting through a mountain
In December 2020, RSPCA’s Blackwood Op shop received a large delivery from a deceased estate.
As the intern manager at the time, Sophie recalled having to sift through a mountain of clothes, trinkets and memorabilia.
“It was a large amount for us all to process. There was just boxes and boxes of items,” explained Sophie.
“What made it so special was the number of sentimental keepsakes. There were documents, photos and letters spanning back decades.”
Chrissie unearths a family’s lost history
Op Shop Volunteer Chrissie felt compelled to seek out the family.
“There was a family tree dating back to the 1700s, there were photos of the family back in England before the Second World War. I just felt there was someone out there from the family missing these gems,” said Chrissie.
“I knew I had to find someone from the family. I started digging through the White Pages, I used Google and made some calls.”
Chrissie even tried contacting someone she knew with the same surname, but each path led to a dead-end.
Social media to the rescue
In a last-ditch effort, Chrissie started combing through people with the same names via social media. It didn’t take her long to find contacts in New South Whales.
“Through cross-sourcing names and photos, I managed to find a woman who lived on the other side of the country, but unfortunately she didn’t get back to me,” Chrissie recalled.
“I then found another woman whose face reassembled someone in one of the photos who had the same name. When I contacted her, she responded straight away. She said she had been searching desperately for her family heirlooms for quite some time.”
The family member told Chrissie she had been devastated about losing so much of the past. She and other relatives had feared the photos were lost forever.
“The initial woman I had contacted got back to me. She said it was her grandfather who had passed and that she was very relieved to know everything had been found.”
Reunited at last
A member of the family made a special trip to Adelaide from interstate to collect their lost history. Chrissie says the woman was overwhelmed with joy.
“She was teary, quite anxious and most relieved. It was such a gorgeous outcome,” said Chrissie.
“For the grand-daughter, there were things like her swimming certificate from when she was a little girl. There were so many little family treasures amongst the collection.”
“It’s just lovely to know these precious items are back in safe hands. This family has rediscovered their past,” explained Sophie, with a smile.
How volunteering makes a difference
Sophie says that there may never have been such a happy ending if Chrissie hadn’t gone above and beyond.
“We couldn’t get anything done without the help of the volunteers. They make each of our stores a welcoming and happy place.”
She is happy to see such a diverse age group intermingling with one another.
“I have recently moved to work at the Rundle Street store in the city, where many of our volunteers are international students. Many haven’t been able to return home for quite some time due to Covid so they appreciate being part of our community. We’ve become a sort of family,” said Sophie.
“Our other stores have volunteers as old as 90 and 91 helping out – this is their social occasion. One of them has volunteered for over 35 years!”
When Chrissie was asked why she volunteers at the Op Shop, she couldn’t look past how fun she thought it was.
“You just have such a great time. Not everyone is cut out for working at the Lonsdale shelter, so it’s nice being able to do our part for the animals in this alternate way.”
We’re always looking for volunteers to help in our Op Shops. If you’d like to find out more go to RSPCA Op Shop.