20 April 2024

Volunteers mystified by sudden closure of Tuggeranong op shop

| James Coleman
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MS shop front

The MS Community Shop will close for the last time on Saturday, 25 May. Photo: James Coleman.

It has been an institution of the Homeworld shopping square in Tuggeranong for more than a decade, but lease-renewal time has come with devastating news for local op shoppers.

The MS Community Shop, originally located on the opposite side of the car park (where Supercheap Auto is today) and now near Access Canberra, was opened by MS Plus 10 years ago.

The not-for-profit describes itself as “one of Australia’s leading sources of information, advice and support services for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological conditions”.

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It operates several similar op shops in Victoria and one in Tasmania, with paid managers and volunteers making up the rest of the staff.

All raised funds “go directly to people affected by MS”.

Last Wednesday, the volunteers at the Tuggeranong shop were told the last day of trading would be Saturday, 25 May.

This would coincide with the date their three-year lease is set to expire, but they’re “mystified” as to why.

MS shop front

The shop was originally located where Supercheap Auto is today in Homeworld. Photo: James Coleman.

“Because the charity shop is well supported by both the community and volunteers and seems quite profitable, everyone is shocked by the imminent closure,” volunteer Margaret Steele says.

It’s understood the shop has struggled to cover its costs for the past few years, but the recent appointment of a new manager brought a “substantial increase in revenue”.

Last April, MS Plus also closed its shop in Glen Waverley in Victoria after 30 years, citing cost issues.

clothes on a rack

There is 50 per cent off all items as the shop tries to clear stock. Photo: James Coleman.

In a statement, MS Plus told Region, “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Tuggeranong shop has become financially unviable.”

“There are a few different reasons for this, but it’s mostly to do with the cost of running the store in this difficult economy,” a spokesperson said.

“We are really disappointed we have to close the shop; it was a difficult decision. During the store’s lifespan, we have had a fantastic team of managers and volunteers, and we will greatly miss them.”

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Margaret is one of the original volunteers at Tuggeranong. She was inspired to join after she retired from a career in teaching and felt like she wasn’t “doing anything for the community anymore”.

She had a friend with MS, so she took part in the annual ‘MS Walk, Run and Roll’ event. This event involves walking either 5 or 10 km around Lake Burley Griffin to raise funds for MS research.

“After that walk, I went back to them and asked if there was anything else I could do because once a year is not good enough. They gave me the option of helping in the new op shop.”

trolley with books

The shop will stop accepting donations from this Saturday (20 April). Photo: James Coleman.

The shock of its closure all these years later has been felt by its loyal customers, too.

“One young girl, who’s been a regular visitor for a good five years, came in last week and said, ‘Look, I couldn’t have done without this place – I came to Canberra with nothing for my unit, and I’ve got my clothes and everything from here’,” Margaret says.

This Saturday (20 April) is the last day the store will be open to donations while the work starts to clear stock from the floor.

Margaret will take part in the upcoming MS Walk, Run and Roll event on Sunday, 5 May, and beyond that, volunteer for a position in the Canberra MS Plus office in Deakin.

“Supporting those with MS is still what drives me.”

The MS Community Shop, in the Homeworld Centre, 150-180 Soward Way, Greenway, is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm, and closed on Sunday. It will close for the last time on Saturday, 25 May.

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As a person whose partner lives with MS I am sad to learn that this much appreciated outlet staffed by wonderful volunteers such as Margaret will be closing. Sadly, there are few opportunities for volunteers at the MS premises in Deakin. While volunteers used to play a much valued role, there are no volunteers working there now. The Walk Run and Roll event referred to in the article raises funds to provide “support and services” for people living with MS as distinct from research. Any funds raised in Canberra in this and similar events are absorbed into the MS Plus general budget across 4 states and territories hence not necessarily allocated to providing any services in Canberra

So disappointed to read of the closure. This Op Shop has been my ‘go to’ for many years everytime I come to Canberra, at least 4 times a year. Lovely volunteers, clean and tidy store and a good range of items. It will be sadly missed.

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