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Op for Change - Part 1

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Manly locals impact the community for good

When Mel Burgess had a dream to open an Op Shop, she was determined to find a way to give back to the local community. In this episode of Helping Hands, we see Mel’s dream come to fruition in Op for Change, the social enterprise Mel opened in Manly. 

In just her third year of running Op for Change, Mel and her team of op shop volunteers have received and sold over ten thousand items donated by Northern Beaches locals, and the social enterprise has given away over $50,000 to local charities. 

For Mel, Op for Change was an opportunity to reinvent the idea of op-shopping. “The next idea for me was to say, ‘What if we take those profits and divert them entirely back to the community?’”. 

Op for Change has an eclectic mix of donated items for sale, including homewares, records, toys, books and clothes.  Every item is checked and sorted before being resold. 

"It’s amazing how much of a nerve it’s touched that people get to donate (items) to their local community,” says Mel.  “(People) will drop something off, we’ll often put it out on the rack the same day, and often something will then walk out of the shop that same day.” 

Clothes which are not resalable are donated to a textile recycler in Melbourne, and selected items are donated to Remote Op Shops, an indigenous op-shop chain in Aboriginal communities throughout remote Australia. 

“It’s just lovely, that whole circular economy aspect of it,” says Mel. 

Mel is supported by a team of volunteers, including Brigette who oversees the visual merchandising, Gini who helps to sort, price and stock items for sale, Savanna who helps with clothing, and Mel’s husband Ian. 

“Generous people have given us stuff, and generous people come in and take it out of here and give us money (which) we give to the charities – it’s all really lovely,” says Ian. 

One of the joys for Mel is the people she meets through Op for Change; the donors, shoppers, volunteers and others, like her, in the community with a passion to create positive change in their local community. 

“That sense of community is something that I wanted to have when we opened, and it has blown me away just how much it’s happened as a matter of course.”  

In Part 2 of the Op for Change story, coming next week, we see the impact Op for Change makes through its support of local charities, including Whirl Recycling, LocalKind Northern Beaches, Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter, MoWaNa Safe Space Inc and Avalon Youth Hub. 


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