The largely-voluntary staff of the popular Salvation Army Thrift Shop in Norman Street, Wendouree came across a confronting scene upon arriving at work on Monday. Hundreds of items had been illegally dumped over the weekend. In addition, greedy scavengers had left a scene of chaos.
Manager Janet Reynolds received a warning about the disarray.
"I got a message from a friend at 6am," Ms Reynolds said. "She'd taken a photo. It made me feel sick and sad."
The ramifications of the dumping and looting have been, and continue to be, substantial.
"All my team work so hard, but this morning, everyone's really overwhelmed," Ms Reynolds said. "All that stuff is contaminated. We've got nowhere to put it at the moment. Our skip bins are full from the rubbish from the weekend."
Ms Reynolds is particularly concerned for the wellbeing of her staff.
"I've got to keep my team safe," she said. "There are some awful things in that rubbish out there: dirty nappies, syringes."
The Salvation Army's Major Craig Farrell shared Ms Reynolds' worries.
"The majority of our volunteers are in their senior years," he said. "For me, it's a safety issue. They shouldn't have to clean up rubbish that's left. All staff have such pride in what we do. It really breaks our hearts."
Due to the recklessness of the previous owners, the rejected items cannot be used for their intended purposes.
"Some of it will be recycled by a recycling company," Ms Reynolds said. "We also make up some dog bales for puppy farms. If it's wet, it has to go in the bin."
There is also a major financial consequence.
"It costs us," Ms Reynolds said. "The rubbish removal is one of the biggest costs of running this establishment. We could help people (with that money)."
Having experienced such a situation previously, the service known for its welcoming environment and extraordinarily low prices had even taken preventative action, but this was to no avail.
"We've tried (to stop this)," Ms Reynolds said. "We've put up new signs saying, 'Please donate when we're open'."
Donation bins have been turned around so they no longer face outwards. The premises has been fortified with barbed wire fencing.
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Extraordinarily, despite the blow, Ms Reynolds remains optimistic and positive.
"We get the best donations in the whole world," she said. "I've got the best shop and I am really proud to work here and work for the Salvation Army. The money which comes out of this shop goes into the Ballarat community to feed people, run programs at the church, get people off the street, and help the homeless."
Ms Reynolds is aware her outlet provides much to many and, even with the frustrations of the morning, witnessing a young girl who had come across a desirable doll house filled her with joy.
Major Farrell is also conscious of the invaluable role played by the service.
"That's the thing we try to remember today, that we have such great people who come to us in the shop," he said. "We do help the people in Wendouree."
Major Farrell asks people to be more mindful.
"We understand, during lockdown, it's hard," he said. "People are probably storing all their stuff and are really keen to donate it. What we're saying to people is, 'Think before you donate and it's okay, there's no rush'. There's a whole heap of other thrift shops around town as well. We're happy to share the load."
Ms Reynolds implores community members to do the right things to help her and others.
"Call us or message us on Facebook or message us through the church," she said. "If you've got donations, we can come and pick them up. We're open six days. We're here early. Please don't leave it out the front."
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