Twice a week, in a crowded room out the back of Huntly's St John Opportunity Shop, Christine Porter gets to work.

"We've got a lot of work to be doing," she said. "Normally, there's two of us [who] work here, one packs and one prices."

Behind her, the boxes are stacked three metres high. It's an intimidating sight.

"They're all full of clothes, in categories - boys, babies here, ladies, and so on. There would be men's clothing here but I've not done them yet."


Porter is one of more than 40 volunteers who work at the busy and bustling store, most of whom are retired.

"They love coming to work," shop manager Sherrie Keeley says. "It gives them a reason to get out of bed!"

But it's not just the jokes, cups of tea and company they come for - these golden oldies are committed to giving back to their tight-knit community.

Pauline Lewis is one of the "checkout girls". She tried to retire but, after three months at home, she was bored - so she came back.

"The nickname for this place is the 'Harrods of Huntly," Lewis says. "It's just so busy, everyone shops out of here."

"I'm amazed at what people bring in - the clothing is phenomenal, lots of furniture, ornaments," Lewis says.

"The turnover really was an eye-opener when I came here. I shop here now and don't go anywhere else. When you're on a pension, every penny counts."

Further along the cluttered corridor you'll find 84-year-old Barrie Challenor, the oldest among the volunteers.

"I had this all tidy yesterday," Challenor says, pointing to mountains of books waiting to be sorted.

"You wonder where it all comes from."

After owning a Huntly bookstore for 66 years, he was asked to look after the donated books at the op shop.

"I was talked into it by the authorities," Challenor says. Clearly, he had no choice in the matter.

From clothing to furnishings, treasures and trinkets - there 's enough to furnish a house... or three.

"We have new stock going out each day and replenish everything all the time," Keeley says.

"We have people coming here every single day and there are new things for them to see."

Mollie Ferguson and Paulette Paki are mother and daughter. They're here most days saving a dollar, or spending it.

"We spend all our money here," Paki admits.

And they're not alone. This treasure trove of hidden delights turns a tidy profit which helps fund emergency equipment such as defibrillators, first aid education and scholarships for people studying medicine.

This year, the profits will also go towards a new ambulance for Huntly.

Claire Moffoy is "on the committee" and has been involved with St John for more than 40 years.

It was her idea to open an op shop in Huntly and it finally happened four years ago.

"We wanted a volunteer shop in Huntly because we needed a method to raise funds," Molloy says.

"It's such a struggle in a lower socio-economic community, which Huntly really is. And having the op shop has just lifted that burden of fundraising, it's fantastic.

"Plus we also do a service for the community - people can come in here, they can buy goods."

They can also pack, stack, fold, hang, sort, price and have a laugh.

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