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Community & Business

3 November, 2022

100 years of Vinnies

For years it has been the perfect place for costumes, preloved books, and sometimes even an absolute treasure.

By Emily Middleton

St Vincent de Paul shops, better known as Vinnies, have celebrated 100 years of raising money for their services, and Gilgandra’s store was no exception.

Past and present volunteers gathered at the Wamboin Street store last Friday, many reminiscing old times, others catching up with old friends. Vinnies area manager of the northwest, Karen Heidke, said that Gilgandra’s team has always been a standout in the region.

“I have nine stores ranging from Gunnedah, Walgett, to Coona, all the way to Kandos, and they’re all great teams. But this team especially, is amazing,” said Ms Heidke.

“They’re so giving to the community; you just couldn’t sing their praises high enough. They are amazing volunteers; they’re very much family and they lean on each other and support each other – which is what Vinnies is all about.”

Ms Heidke was blown away with the dedication the Gilgandra community has shown to the store since opening many decades ago. But this wouldn’t come as a surprise to Gilgandra locals.

“The volunteers are more than willing to help which I think is amazing. And a lot of them are at that stage of life where they could be sitting back doing nothing - but they just don’t do that. They continue to step out and help anyone in need,” said Ms Heidke.

“Gilgandra should be very proud of their Vinnies team, because I know Vinnies is very proud of them.”

Proof is in the pudding, Helen McKenzie is one of the few that have racked up three decades of service to Gilgandra Vinnies. Not entirely sure how she started, Ms McKenzie always felt she had a duty, and wanted to do what could to help those in need.

“When I was a kid in Wellington, I was in different organisations, and I would go around visiting people who needed help,” she said.

“You just have that inner sense telling you to help. Some people can help themselves, and some people can’t. A lot of the time people just wanted companionship, someone to talk to. And I’m pretty good at talking.”

Reflecting on Gilgandra Vinnies history, dedicated volunteer for two decades, Allan Findlay, recalled being at the 75th celebrations. He said that while much has changed over 25 years, the local support has hardly dwindled.

“We used to deliver money to the people who needed it, but now they have to come to us to get that help. It’s changed a lot over the past few years, but the shop has stayed strong,” said Mr Findlay.

“There are two parts to Vinnies, the shop and the conference, but the shops is where the ladies did a lot of work. There were four or five on each day, and there’s still that, which is phenomenal.”

Gilgandra Vinnies has seen multiple changes of venue and president over time, and everyone involved in some way was acknowledged for their support at the event last Friday.

Vinnies provides programs and services for people who are at risk of or who are homeless across Australia, and the Vinnies stores are one of the ways the organisation helps fund these programs.

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