A veritable treasure trove of goodies awaits visitors to the Yarrawonga Community Opportunity Shop in Benalla Road – but there is much more than first meets the eye.
Now far too big to be contained in one site, the shop stretches across two locations in Benalla Road – next to the Caltex Service Station and near to the Murray Valley Highway across from the Yarrawonga Ambulance Station.
It is at the latter location where the seasons have shifted to provide a blooming good opportunity to get your spring garden in swing.
Step out back of the Opp Shop and discover a glorious nursery of plants, potted and grown with love, and bargain-priced for savvy shoppers.
The nursery is full to the brim with plant varieties and comes with plenty of helpful advice from the dedicated volunteers on hand.
“The nursery has probably been here for a year and half now,” said Volunteer Co-Ordinator Lynne Manktelow.
“Everything has been donated except for the potting mix. The plants are all from donated cuttings, the pots are all recycled and the garden beds are made from old bed frames and pallets.
“It started off small but it’s just got bigger and bigger and now we have a huge selection of local, hardy plants that cost much less than what they would at a typical nursery.”
The Yarrawonga Community Opportunity Shop Nursery has been ‘grown’ entirely at the hands of volunteers.
From construction of the plant beds, to the shade coverage, the watering system and compost – it’s all hands on deck.
The shop is run by volunteers under the auspice of MHA Care which dedicates money raised to be returned to the community via support programs such as FoodShare, Meals on Wheels, Home Care for the elderly or disadvantaged and the Community Car program.
MHA Care CEO Michael Hogan said many support programs operated by the organisation would not survive without money raised from the opportunity shops and the invaluable support of volunteers.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the incredible work of our volunteers who help raise funds to be put straight back into our programs supporting the most vulnerable people in the community,” Mr Hogan said.
“It is their hard work that keeps the two sites going and in turn keeps those very important programs going.”
Lee Powell has been volunteering with MHA Care for 17 years. He started working with the FoodShare program and now dedicates time to the nursery at the Yarrawonga Community Opportunity Shop.
“I keep joking that I’d like to get the sack so I can go home – then I remember I’m a volunteer,” Lee said.
Lee enjoys working in the outdoor section, from the nursery to the range of outdoor furniture, bikes and play equipment.
Lynne could not speak highly enough of the team of volunteers, now around 30 shared between the two opportunity shop sites.
“Our volunteers are the best people in the world,” she said.
“All of this started out of a community need and it has grown to something we are all very proud of.
“Every now and then people say, ‘if things are donated, why do you sell them?’ and we point out that we do all of this to support the community. To help people who need it.”
And more volunteers are always welcome. Whether working inside the shops, sorting goods or helping customers, or outside in the nursery.
“We forget that so many of these people, particularly in retirement, have a lot of knowledge and they can share that,” Lynne said.
“People can choose to volunteer and share their skills in their own way.”
So, if you’re considering a garden makeover this spring or planning on branching out with some additional landscaping, call into the Yarrawonga Community Opportunity Shop Nursery, open Tuesday to Friday and on Saturday mornings.