It was the end of an era and more than 70 years of combined volunteering at Dannevirke's St Vincent de Paul charity shop in late December.

After packing 60 Christmas hampers the day before, it was time for Frances Walshe, with 19 years of volunteering for the charity, Teresa Mills, 14 years and Cheryl Dornbush, seven years, to say goodbye to the High St store, along with Gabrielle Schmidt, Annette Reiri, Gail Ward and Michael Walshe, who left for family reasons after 30 years.

It was an emotional time for the group who consider themselves "family."

"Over the years we've made sure the takings go back to our town, because we haven't been able to do this without this town," Frances said.


"We've become friends and stop and have a natter and over time we've seen our customers go from babies in their prams to growing up. So much hard work is put in here you have to have a crowd you can work with and have fun with."

Frances, Cheryl and Teresa worked five days a week, supported by other part-time volunteers.

And there is an increasing need for the charity shop and its vast array of heavily discounted items.

"You see the need in people's faces, it's very difficult," Teresa said.

St Vincent de Paul is operated from Palmerston North and local conference president Bill Young said, "Organisations need to move with the times just to stay in business and in particular to comply with modern regulations."

Changing government regulations requiring greater accountability has meant the national organisation has created new structures for the shops to operate under with the requirement to use electronic tills, Eftpos and other systems to allow a charity shop such as Dannevirke's to remain in business.

But the resignation of so many staff has been devastating for Lyn Morris, a regular customer. For her, the store was more than a place to shop, it was where she found comfort, friendship and solace.

"You could go in feeling as grumpy as and come out with a big smile," she said.


"It's been a very special place for me and it's sad to see such a happy bunch leave. They were great ladies and a visit to Dannevirke's St Vincent de Paul's was the highlight of my three-weekly trip to town for so many years."

Gabrielle Schmidt, who had volunteered for eight years, said the team had shared plenty of laughs and it was great meeting people from all walks of life.

The charity shop opens again today, with a new team led by interim manager Frances Carthy.