Little Shop needs some big hearts

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Christine Harvey
St Vincent’s Public Hospital volunteer coordinator Christine Harvey. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Sydney’s St Vincent’s Public Hospital is home to a small convenience shop that does great things thanks to the big-hearted volunteers behind the counter – and it needs a few more.

According to Little Shop manager Jeff Gestier, last year the shop turned over half a million dollars with its sales of snacks, drinks, newspapers, gift cards and personal items – with all profits going to patient care at the Darlinghurst hospital and through outreach programs.

That’s a lot of red frogs and chocolate freckles.

“It’s a great fundraiser which helps many people in the hospital and surrounding area,” says Jeff.

Twenty-two St Vincent’s ‘vollies’ keep it open seven days a week and also operate a trolley service that takes wares to the patient wards.

Volunteers
Long-serving Little Shop ‘Vollies’ Lucy Chladek and Antoinette Cornelius. PHOTO: Aphonsus Fok

Most are aged 60 and over, and as some have retired or passed away, a call has gone out for new volunteers to man the shop begun by the Sisters of Charity and which is under the patronage of St Elizabeth of Hungary.

Antoinette Cornelius joined the Little Shop dream team in 2007 and travels to Darlinghurst from her home in Brighton-le-Sands to help out every Thursday and the odd Saturday.

“I love coming here, the staff and the customers are nice,” she says.

Nothing is too much trouble for the former banking manger who will pop out to post mail for patients or pick up anything extra if stock has run out.

Jewellery display
Some special items for sale at the volunteer-run shop. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“We keep our costs as low as we possibly can and feel that we’re doing a good deed,” she says.

Of all the people she has served a few stand out, she said, including one customer who came to pay for items he had previously stolen.

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Lucy Chladek has served Little Shop customers for 10 years and wouldn’t stop for all the world.

“I live alone, and I love the people contact,” she said. “I ran my own business for 35 years, a florist’s, and I still very much have a business mind. If a customer walks out without buying anything I’m personally hurt.”

Volunteer co-ordinator Christine Harvey added that the vollies are valued by the hospital and provided with training.

“It should be called a big shop because it does big things,” she said.

For information on joining the Little Shop dream team email [email protected] or call 8382 9559.