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Stop In is our Opportunity Shop, based in the Peace Hall complex across the road from the Cathedral at 40 Vivian Street. It celebrated 25 years of operation in June 2018.
The original inspiration for an op shop came from New Plymouth woman Gill Rawson. And it wasn’t her first – she had already started one at Holy Trinity.
“St Mary’s were preparing for a fete day,” said Gill, “and all these clothes were dumped on the stage. I said to [Archdeacon] David King: ‘They’re not going to sell very well like that!’ So we hung them on rods… and they sold really well.”
That success prompted Gill and her late husband Derek to launch the op shop together with a group of church women, while her son Keith, a carpenter, helped by enlarging the space available.
She said the proceeds came in very well, and the church used them for its own urgent needs and also for outreach which included support for women’s and men’s refuges and an addiction treatment facility at Stratford. Money was also spent on parcels, which were given to needy people who were living alone.
Nesta Andrews managed the shop at first, but later Gill served in that role.
Anne Street then served as manager for many years and has recently handed over to Kareen Durbin.
Read More: Stop In Manger recognised
At one time there were two short-lived additions to the shop’s services: a coffee shop, and a re-make sewing room, which was used by people who wanted to alter or re-make items they had bought at the shop; it housed two sewing machines and an overlocker.
In addition to donations made to a wide variety of agencies and organisations, financial help has also gone to disaster relief both in New Zealand and overseas, the restoration of headstones in the churchyard, and the sponsoring of overseas children.
The shop’s customers have ranged from needy people wanting to buy basic clothing to folk less financially pressed who are prepared to pay a little more for something special. And occasionally over the years the volunteer staff have been taken aback by most unusual requests – for instance, one gentleman came in seeking a suit to get buried in!
However, not all the customers come in wanting to buy something: some just need human contact and a sounding-board; they want to talk, have a chat – and that’s yet another valuable function of the institution which has already begun its second quarter-century of life.
Stop In is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-1pm.