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If you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s as I did, "lending a hand" was something that one did. Community was very important and supporting community groups and individuals was encouraged in our household. I suppose it was natural that I got involved in volunteering with community organisations as I got older.
It was in the mid-1970s when my association with the North Queensland Society For Crippled Children began. A group of local ladies and gents, including my mother, had started running a "Paddy's Market" in Babinda to raise funds for the society. It sold donated clothes, brick-a-brack, household items and the like. These were very humble beginnings as it operated out of a space beneath the then QCWA Hall, (long since removed to make way for a road bypass). The space had a concrete floor and slat wood walls, which were great for letting in the breeze, (no air conditioning back then), but also let in a little rain as well. Clothes were displayed in neat piles on trestle tables or hung from a wire clothesline above. I remember making clothes hangers from tightly rolled newspaper and wire when we ran out of the real thing. (You couldn't just pop down to the shop and get more back then). I was working in Gordonvale at the time and vividly remember what regularly happened when I came home on a weekend. I would park my motorcycle, remove my riding gear and get handed a cup of tea and a pair of scissors by my mum. We would then spend the next few hours chatting and cutting up unsalable clothing to sell as rags. Believe me when I say that the machine employed to do this job today is a vast improvement.
There were no donation bins back then but people always knew who to drop donations to. I am reminded of my aunt, who lived in Gordonvale, dropping in to visit my mum every month or so. She would open the boot of her car and it would be full to overflowing with items, clothes, in particular, sent by her network of friends.
As the years progressed the "Paddy's Market" moved to a new location in Munro Street, (where Arts Nexus is now). This was a real shop with real walls and a glass display window in front. Quite a step up. There was even a regular short-term "pop-up" shop for winter wear across the road. (This may be the tropics but It does get a little chilly up here at times). I was now working full-time in Babinda but still managed to make myself useful when and where I could.
More years passed and the shop was on the move again, this time to a larger building that once housed A. C. Mellick, Draper and Mercer, (now the "Boulders Tavern"). This spacious store allowed for expansion into sales of furniture and other larger items. There were now real racks to hang clothes on, shop fittings that suited our needs, display space and an opportunity to provide a "unique shopping experience " to our customers. Many enjoyable and successful years were spent in this location but there was better to come.
After years of renting properties, the opportunity presented itself for the purchase of a building at 41 Munro Street, Babinda. The Society did so and we all banded together and moved everything into the new premises in a very short space of time. The new store had a new name and the Babinda Bargain Centre was born. Another milestone came in 1991 when the North Queensland Society For Crippled Children became Cootharinga North Queensland and we all moved forward with new vigour. Today, the Bargain Centre is an integral and much-loved part of the Babinda community.
All this could not have been achieved without the ongoing support of a dedicated number of volunteers, (past and present). On the subject of these volunteers. Through the years they have donated their time to assisting numerous organisations, participating in community events, (a lot of dressing in costume included here), assisting local entrants for the "Miss Australia Quest", walking for charity and supporting so many good causes. I have memories of one of the Bargain Centre's first "fashion shows" which was held as part of another function at the local sports field many years back. The stage was the back of a large flatbed truck, the models were our volunteers and their friends, the clothing came from the shop, the audience sat in the sports field's grandstand. It was a lot of fun, a great success and great PR (no social media back then). Our fabulous volunteers certainly love the idea of "lending a hand". As Audrey Hepburn once said, "As you grow older, you'll discover you have two hands - one for helping yourself, the other for helping others." So true. As the youngest member of the Bargain Centre's volunteer team, I have learnt a lot from those older than myself. Their friendship, knowledge, advice, support and life skills have certainly aided me on my life's journey. Thanks to you all. It's been great.
Currently, I am living and working in Babinda and am still as passionate about volunteering as ever, being involved in a number of community organisations and events. It has also been a joy to have been a part of the Babinda Bargain Centre's journey from humble beginnings to the successful business it is today.
Holly - Babinda Bargain Centre volunteer