Environmentalists created a practical strategy we can all use to reduce our impact on the earth, whose simple good sense and inherent logic is summed up in the catchy phrase: ‘reduce, reuse recycle’. Don’t buy it if you don’t really need it (reduce), extract the maximum practical benefit from any item you do own (reuse) and when you do have to dispose of something break it down into its re-useable parts and turn it into something new. Despite this being an ecological no-brainer, it is generally accepted that this practical strategy didn’t emerge until the green revolution of the 1970s opened our eyes to the impact we were having on Mother Earth. Not so.
The Salvation Army has been collecting and selling recycled clothing since 1886, when they first established a depot where people could drop off their unwanted clothes underneath Sydney’s Central Station. The Salvos would then clean and re-sell them at an affordable price to those most in need. Most astoundingly of all, six years earlier the Salvos set up Sydney’s first paper recycling centre, to re-use waste paper and provide low cost paper-based goods. In their early days in the Hunter region the Salvation Army used to give away free coal to the poor.
This year marks 127 years of the Salvo’s clothing recycling program and to celebrate they are holding (in their words) ‘the biggest birthday bash’ and with the Salvo’s Hunter Head Office in the West End the party is happening right here. They operate two huge barn-like stores which sit together like giant identical twins at the western end of Hunter Street and it is here, on Friday 29 November, that the birthday party will happen.
Starting at 9.00am the Salvation Army Emergency Services will be providing a hearty sausage sizzle, Rhema FM will be doing an outside broadcast and face painters will transform children into fantasy characters. But for shopaholics it’s the specials on furniture, including free delivery for large items, that will draw them in the door.
One Salvos store is packed to the brim with clothes and shoes of every kind, crockery, linen, records, CDs and DVDs, while the other specialises in large furniture and electrical goods. In the furniture store the Manager, James, greets me with a smile; he is helpful and charming and I instantly feel welcome. As I go poking around amongst the acre of lounges in every colour and pattern, I find the delightful and the unexpected: a quirky rocking horse, a pair of crutches and a framed print of two soulful Lassie-like collies.
Chairs they have for sale are cleverly attached to the walls creating an attractive, if unintended, display of furniture-as-sculpture. Shelves of electrical goods can be found at bargain prices, including a wall of speakers, and you can buy in confidence because all electrical products are checked and tested by the Salvos electrician.
The money raised at the Salvos stores is funnelled back into the organisation so it can continue to provide wide-ranging and diverse services: providing beds for the homeless, job assistance for the unemployed, care services for the elderly, food vouchers and meals for the hungry and refuges for victims of abuse. It has been said that the Salvation Army cares for every problem, for everyone from ‘the cradle to the grave’ with a philosophy of ‘a hand up, rather than a hand out’.
Harold Cleveringa is the Hunter’s Area Manager. He came to the organisation not via the church, but from a retail background which included a position at Coles Myer. He has been with the Salvos for seven years and loves it. “I am rewarded in so many ways here, not just financially, but emotionally. I get to help people in a practical way every day”.
The Salvos stores, 884-900 Hunter Street, Newcastle West. Phone: 4961 3889 (main store), 4969 2457 (furniture). General Salvos phone no.: 13 72 58. Web: www.salvos.org.au/stores. Facebook: My Salvos Stores. Check in that you are bargain hunting at Salvos on foursquare.
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