AN OP SHOP in Whittington is giving people with all abilities the chance to learn life skills and prepare for future jobs and careers.
Apollo Place Pre Loved is an extension of Encompass Community Services, which supports and provides opportunities for people with disabilities.
The 16 participants take part in a skills development program between Monday and Friday, carrying out tasks such as money handling, customer service, sales and the sorting of donations.
Apollo store supervisor and participant support worker Danielle Leith said the op shop was an amazing story, giving participants a safe and secure place to learn and thrive, and a welcome affordable retail option for the local and extended community.
“The customers are really receptive of the participants here, they are so warm and inviting,” Danielle said.
“I feel it’s a beautiful harmonious environment for everyone with a great feel and vibe, and everyone seems to come back.”
Participant Abby Morton volunteers at the op shop two days a week and said she loved working at the cash register and serving customers, and sorting out the baby clothes, folding them up and putting them away.
“The customers give us a happy smile and they always ask, ‘how are you?’,” she said.
The op shop is just one facet of “Hub 3219”, with a furniture store next door and a cafe, The Paddock @ Apollo, to open soon.
Danielle said the cafe, which is currently being renovated, would follow the same sort of model and support the skill development of participants, while the furniture store offered material aid for people in financial hardship.
“With support from Give Where You Live people can get vouchers from our Geelong community partners, to use in store.
“This assists people to set up their home.”
On Fridays, the op shop also gives away free bread, which is donated by St Mary’s Church in conjunction with Brumby’s Bakery Highton.
“It’s just an amazing story and it has a great community feel and with the café coming on board shortly, it is just what the community needs to bring supports to the area,” she said.
Danielle said working for Encompass and coming from a retail background, it made sense to marry the two together.
“I grew up in Whittington and I lived in this area when I was a child for 15 years, so I’ve come full circle, it brings heaps of joy to be back here.”
Business Enterprise manager Jan Daniels said Hub 3219 had begun to grow, change and develop as community needs changed.
Jan, who has managed the Apollo site for the past four years, said she loved that every day was different, and you never really knew what to expect.
“I love the community and the vibe around here and the place has a good energy.
“It is such a positive to see what we can all achieve when we work together.
“We have a great team here – we all have the same vision and are heading in the same direction.”
Apollo Place Pre Loved sells pre-loved clothing and footwear, linen, toys, books, DVDs, CDs and other items at affordable prices. It is located at 21 Apollo Place in Whittington and is open 10am to 3.30pm.