ALMOST 40 years of history has come to an end at Vinnies Rivervale.
After decades on Kooyong Road, the charity shop shut its doors for the final time on Thursday.
Shop manager Pat Maher has been with the Vinnies family for 37 years, starting out as a volunteer when the Rivervale shop started up in the ’80s.
“They announced up at the church that they were opening a store and asked if anybody would be interested. I went along the first day,” Pat said.
“We opened where the kebab shop is now and we were there for several years. And then this became available and we moved up here. They closed it down about nine years ago and did it all up again, and I’ve been here ever since: 37 years.”
Ms Maher said she originally joined Vinnies to help people in need and give back to her community.
“We treated it like a drop-in centre, if anybody wanted a chat. Some of the people around this area, the only time they get a chat is to come in here and come out the back and have a chat, maybe a cup of tea… Vinnies was to help people,” she said.
Customer Jenny Williams said Ms Maher always managed to lift her spirits.
“I come in all the time, and this lady is a beautiful lady; you walk in here and you get this really great feel, and if you feel a bit down she always cheers you up,” she said.
“They come out, and you have a cup of tea; there’s a whole community that are really going to miss this shop.”
Ms Maher has worked each day of her 37 years unpaid, refusing a volunteer’s allowance.
The Lathlain resident was awarded a Belmont Community Service Award in 2011, with her outstanding service prompting the council to take the unusual step of giving the award to someone out of the area.
“She never turns anyone away. She’s always taking people in, giving people things they needed, including things out of her own pocket. That’s the sort of woman we’re talking about,” Belmont Deputy Mayor Robert Rossi said.
Vinnies retail area manager Alex Stewart said while the shopfront has closed, there was still help available.
“We have more of our members going into people’s homes now, rather than coming to us,” she said.
“It’s another way of assessing what their situation is and pick up things you don’t necessarily see when people just come and ask for help. So we do have lots of members throughout Belmont and Vic Park and Rivervale and they’ll keep going.”
State retail operations manager Signe Balodis said there were opportunities for volunteers to be relocated to a new shop if they chose.