“I find when you are working at Vinnies you are leaving your cares and worries behind for a day. Not that I have big worries, but it takes your mind off things.”
That's right. It all began 45 years ago when a simple clipboard with a note asking for volunteers made its rounds within her local church community after attending mass.
At the time, her daughter – the youngest of Shirley's seven children – had just started kindy. "I thought, oh, well, what do I do now? So, I signed up to become a Vinnies volunteer, thinking it would also get me out of the house," Shirley remembers cheerfully.
Little did she know that this decision would set the stage for a remarkable journey spanning 45 years of service at "her" Vinnies Shop in Ringwood. It's been a time that Shirley has thoroughly enjoyed for several reasons: "I find when you are working at Vinnies you are leaving your cares and worries behind for a day. Not that I have big worries, but it takes your mind off things," she explains.
"You also feel that you are doing something worthwhile, helping others who are not as well off as you are."
Shirley started in her local Vinnies Shop the same year that the world was singing along to the tunes of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta's brand new film Grease, and when Malcolm Fraser was leading the nation as Australia's 22nd prime minister.
Since then Shirley has witnessed many changes. "When I started, we wrote every sale in an exercise book by hand and kept our cash in a drawer," recalls the grandmother to six and great-grandmother to three. Modern technology and entering the realm of digitalisation has changed many procedures since then.
One thing, however, has remained the same – as the years rolled by, she formed enduring friendships with fellow volunteers and visitors to the Vinnies Shop.
What began as a simple act of giving soon transformed into a tapestry of shared experiences, laughter and cherished memories. Shirley fondly remembers the shop's annual Christmas celebrations, special morning teas and, of course, the little celebration of her 45th anniversary lovingly organised by her team.
Today, Shirley's role mainly involves sorting through donations and undertaking the vital task of pricing items. It's a role that highlights her commitment and the impact she continues to have on the shop's operations.
Thank you Shirley for the many years of unwavering dedication and for the countless lives you've touched. You've shown us that age is just a number and that the power of kindness and giving is unlimited. Your journey has made a difference, and as we celebrate you, we are reminded that every act of giving can have the most profound impact.