By Mitchell Clarke
Weak and heartless vandals have taken aim at one of the most vulnerable community organisations, but sadly it’s not the first time the Pakenham Opportunity Shop has been targeted.
Dedicated volunteers were disgusted to rock up to work on Tuesday 24 September to see their donation bin destroyed and once-loved clothes thrown across their back-of-house operations off Treloar Avenue.
Pakenham Op Shop secretary Bev Burley said this most recent incident was a clear example of “pure stupidity”.
“I think it’s just opportunistic vandalism, they didn’t even steal anything from the bins, they only do it because it’s some form of enjoyment for them,” Ms Burley said.
“Just unnecessary, it’s fun for them but not for anyone else, especially the volunteers who are forced to clean up after them.”
The shop, made up of 27 elderly volunteers, is run by a committee with the purpose of giving back to organisations within the shire.
But incidents like this are becoming a regular occurrence. In July, the front door lock of the store was superglued while a month earlier, its alleged teens attempted to break into the store on two separate occasions.
“It’s just stupidity, even if they got inside there is nothing in here for them to take,” she said.
The offenders left behind their bolt cutters at the scene but remarkably returned to the store days later to ask for their return.
“I don’t know why we’re targeted, we’re all volunteers and it takes a lot of time to earn that money. We operate on a very tight budget.
“It really gets to me, we give our time, we do it because we want to and this is the way we’re treated.”
But the crimes aren’t only occurring in the middle of the night, with staff forced to deal with people using their back of house operations as a place to urinate in broad daylight.
“I said to one man, ‘excuse me what are you doing, this isn’t a public toilet’ and he turned to me and said this is a church shop, god would want me to do this,” Ms Burley said.
“We’ve even seen worse than that with someone defecating and then taking off.”
In the year to August, the community shop raised $100,000 with every cent donated back into a number of community groups from fire brigades to Millhaven Lodge, Cardinia U3A, Officer Specialist School and more.
“All the organisations we give to are so grateful, a lot of them, especially small fire brigades, say they just couldn’t exist without us,” she said.
Volunteers are also pleading with the public to stop dumping mattresses outside the bins, with the cost of removal coming in at a cost of $80 to the shop.
“Considering our stuff here is only $1-$2, it’s so cheap, for us to continually pay for this to be removed, it’s really just a lost day.
“Just show some respect for what the women at the op shop do because our work is to improve everything in Pakenham.”