Michelle has managed our Hospice Shop in Helensville for seven years and has a long and heart-warming history with Hospice West Auckland. She originally began as a receptionist at Hospice House in Beach Road and helped with the patient companion programme that matched companions with families and maintained regular contact with care givers. In 2011 she became part of the team tasked with managing the set up and opening of the Henderson, New Lynn and Te Atatu Hospice Shops. This is where she first met her husband, a painter who was working on all the new shops – and now they’ve been together for more than 10 years.
What is a typical day like for you?
You have to be fluid. You might have plans of what you’d like to do but your day can easily turn in a different direction – and it usually does! A typical day would include receiving, sorting and pricing donations, making the store look attractive and presentable, putting out stock, managing the volunteers, being a sounding board for my team… I see myself as being like an orchestra conductor and go wherever I’m needed. There could be three people waiting to speak to you at any one time, so you definitely have to be fluid.
What’s special about the Helensville Hospice Shop?
We have great parking! And this helps us to get a lot of donations in, because it’s easy and convenient to park when you’re dropping goods off. You often get people popping in to ask if we’d be interested in something or other, and it’s really nice that they think of us. We’re fortunate to get good quality donations too, and we make sure they are well-priced so we get a lot of repeat business.
Our Hospice Shop has a really good reputation in the community for being friendly – people are always coming in for a chat. We work hard to create a great environment with really wonderful regular customers.
Some of our staff used to be customers who then became volunteers and are now paid staff. They bring their love for the store to their jobs and add their unique experience of being customers, which is really special.
What’s different about a Hospice Op Shop?
You can have some very personal conversations with customers, where people share their experiences of losing someone. It’s a real privilege to have someone confide in you in such a personal way. And people can entrust you to go through private effects from a loved one, which can be so touching and profound. It’s made me realise that everyone and everything has a story. That’s the personal side of these shops.
You must see so many unusual items donated?
It would be the 5% of stuff that is really special – 95% of donations are regular items that are our bread-and-butter. It’s heart warming sometimes what people give us. I think of us as treasure hunters: we go through a lot of regular items and every now and then there’s something pretty special and unique that is so exciting. You never know what you’re going to find in a bag or box! The coolest item we have at the moment is an antique accordion player in its own vintage case – it could be on show in a museum.
How do you see the role of Op Shops in the community?
I think Op Shops in general are really important to the community, and particularly in Helensville because there aren’t a lot of other stores like department or clothing stores here. To be able to buy good second-hand items without having to drive to Westgate is so helpful. We try hard to support the community in other ways too, like lending items to the local primary and high schools, churches, or community groups. If there’s a way to help then we’ll always do our best!
What types of challenges do you regularly face?
One of the biggest challenges we face is to help people to understand what Hospice does and where the revenue from the shops actually goes. A lot of our customers think of us as just an Op Shop, and don’t necessarily understand why donations must be in good condition, for example. I sometimes comment to people when I’m thanking them for a donation that it will help Hospice to operate out in the community, to reinforce what happens to their donations.