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By Lizzie Pendergast – Volunteer at Thread Together   

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Head down to EAT.CHOP.SHOP!

Come along and access a variety of free goods and services in a colourful and friendly atmosphere! Collect your groceries from the OzHarvest Market, and then swing by the Food Truck for lunch! Pick up some brand-new clothes from Thread Together. Get a great new hair cut at the Sustainable Salons pop-up salon. Freshen up that new do with a shower thanks to Orange Sky (towels and more provided!) Pick up some toiletries to-go, with a free care pack from Every Little Bit Helps.  So, head on down to eat, shop and chop! 

I walked out feeling they had helped me

On the morning of 24 October 2018 I woke up to a vomiting child, an impending migraine, and an appointment for a neck x-ray for a protruding disc. Suffice to say, I wasn’t at my best! I had also offered to volunteer for a couple of hours at Thread Together for Eat.Chop.Shop., and the logistics of making that work made my head hurt more than it already did. I have to say it would have been easier to call and say I couldn’t make it, and I very nearly did! I walked into the shop feeling like I was there to help others. Little did I know I would walk out of there feeling like they had helped me. 

Thread Together’s focus is to source and distribute

I was introduced to the work of this organisation in May this year. My wonderful friend, Eve Hughes, is the Communications Manager at Thread Together and she asked me if I would be interested to come in to volunteer. I was surprised when she told me that Thread Together is the only organisation in Australia whose focus is to source and redistribute end-of-line stock. They collect the stock from fashion retailers and have created a network of charity partners, to help ensure the clothes are redistributed it to those in our community who need it most.

What a simple, but brilliant objective! Not only does Thread Together divert clothing from landfill to benefit the environment. They also help people who have come up against hard times reclaim some of their confidence, pride and self-respect.

People are welcomed warmly and treated with dignity

The following week I was volunteering in the Kensington store where, for a couple of hours, I sorted through boxes of new clothes following instructions such as: hang clothes according to type and then size, and make sure the Thread Together label is facing out, so that all the clothes are hanging in the same direction on the racks. Thread Together’s motive is to make sure the look and feel of the store is just like a shop you or I might venture into after a day at work.

The time and effort put into merchandising the goods is to make them visually appealing, so the people in our community who are doing it tough can have an authentic shopping experience. The hope is that they not only walk away with some new clothes (ones they have chosen for themselves), but more importantly feel they have been welcomed warmly and treated with dignity. 

Contributing to how others feel about themselves.

I didn’t get to meet any of the customers that day, nor the next two times I volunteered with Thread Together. But one thing I did walk away with was a sense of achievement. The few short hours of time I had ‘donated’ had not only made me feel personally useful, but it had also given me the satisfaction of knowing I was contributing to how others felt about themselves. 

Thank you for caring

At Eat.Chop.Shop I was able to witness first-hand the positive and immediate impact Thread Together is having on the people in our society that need the most help. I walked through the door and straight away I was on the front desk. And what an incredible experience it was. The shop was packed with people, the majority of whom looked relaxed and happy.

People were openly discussing their clothing choices with us and each other. They were remarking on the quality of the food next door at OzHarvest. And how they loved their new haircuts from Sustainable Salons. There were mothers who were thankful for the clothes they could give to their children. One man was excited to get a new suit jacket for a job interview. Another needed clothes to fit her changed body shape since becoming ill. One thing that struck me was that every single person I served said “Thank you”, which isn’t out of the ordinary (we all say it, don’t we?), but the big difference here was, that it wasn’t perfunctory. It wasn’t “thank you for packing my bag”, it was “thank you for caring”. 

“Mummy! You look happy!”

I’m going through a difficult time myself now, but nothing compared to what some of these people are going through. The countless smiles and the feeling of community in the store that day was indeed infectious; I felt that joy and self-satisfaction for the rest of the day which made it more rewarding. It is true to say that “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up”. And when I was picked up after finishing my shift I guess my family could see that too because I was welcomed with a hug and a smile from my 4-year old son who exclaimed “Mummy! You look happy!”.