Old-school country op shops can be a mecca for bargain-hunters or vintage lovers, but they are also valuable social hubs in rural communities. Op shops often fly under the radar for donating phenomenal amounts of money to local communities while providing a drop-in space for volunteers and locals for a social chat. The Garfield Community Op Shop has raised a whopping $187,000 through its annual grants program for the surrounding community since it was established in 2012. Money has supported communal outdoor exercise equipment, a primary school bike shed, local sporting club uniforms and funding for kinders and family support centres. Shop manager Helen Davey said it also provided a social outlet for senior citizens as well as a place where people could still pick up a pair of kids’ shorts for 50 cents. “We have two sorts of customers – those who go through the boxes, or those who go through the racks. You never know what you will get. We try to keep things reasonably cheap,” she said. While many people try to make a bit of money on local Facebook buy, swap and sell sites, Ms Davey said the Garfield op shop still received so many donations it had to find a bigger store. She said the popularity of the Marie Kondo Netflix decluttering series had also sparked a renewed interest in offloading stuff to the local op shop. “But we are very particular what we put on the shelves. Everything has to be top quality and in good condition,” she said. “We are such a disposable society. Some things still have the tags attached but it also has an environmental aspect as we keep things out of landfill.” Trafalgar and District Community op shop donates $50,000 a year to the local Andrews House aged care centre – more than $800,000 in 20 years – and $6000 a year to the town’s Youth Resource Centre. p shop committee president Glennys Brennan said the money helped to buy added comforts for the aged care residents and fund one-on-one mentorship programs for young people. Ms Brennan’s husband Michael won a Baw Baw Shire Australia Day medal last month for his community contributions which included volunteering at the op shop. “e have 22 volunteers on a weekly roster. The public come in and chat so we waste a lot of time talking, so it’s like a drop-in centre – it creates a welcoming environment,” she said. The Loch Sport CFA-run op shop is only open on Sunday mornings but has raised enough money to contribute funds towards a new fire shed, firefighting equipment and a forward-control-vehicle. Loch Sport Fire Brigade captain Dennis Berg said the op shop thrived, especially on long weekends when the tourist town was besieged by holiday makers or sea-changers. “On a Sunday morning, sometimes our volunteers don’t get time off for a coffee,” he said. “Kids love to run over to the fire trucks and have a play. We even have little firefighter outfits so mums can take photos.” Mr Berg said they have had problems with people dumping unusable goods out the back which eats into the charity shop’s funds and resources through tip fees. He said his wife carefully checked donated clothes, bric-a-brac and furniture and gave them the thumbs up or thumbs down. “People can find anything here from furniture or kitchen sinks. They say you could have anything but the kitchen sink but we have three down there,” he said.