For decades now Saturday mornings have been “a real rush” for Jim and Shirley Bardsley, who until recently ran Raglan’s first op shop — one which is still going strong 35 years on.

The couple, now in their 80s, handed over the running of the shop at the end of last year and can now relax up a bit. But they look to be having none of that and were back last Saturday to help out with the morning tea which has become something of a ritual in the Union Church hall near the bottom of Stewart Street.

That’s where the Opportunity Shop sign is displayed with religious regularity every Saturday morning except at Easter weekend and during the two-week Christmas/New Year break.

It’s all been well worthwhile, says Shirley of the long-running fundraising initiative, not only because of the morning tea “fellowship” in the corner of the hall closest to the kitchen but also because of the “different customers” who come to pick up the likes of a glass, vase, crocheted rug or an outdated but perfectly good Easiyo-maker — each item for not much more than a dollar.

It was August 1977 when the op shop first opened its doors, recalls Shirley. She was part of the church’s women’s fellowship, and what started as a monthly venture — with market days every so often — became a weekly thing five years later.

First it was just secondhand clothes for sale, she explains, then the jumble of white elephant items was added. And for a time, beginning in the ‘90s, it was potted plants that helped bring the Saturday shoppers in for a browse.

Longtime resident Leila Browning, who lives just across the road from the church, started supplying what was needed for morning tea early on, with others rostered on to put it all together.

Leila does that to this day — despite now being in her mid 90s — and still puts in an appearance each week, albeit on her mobility scooter which gets driven right into the hall and parked there.

“Someone teased her they sold it (the scooter) for $100,” Shirley told the Chronicle on Saturday.

But now Johnny and Louisa George have taken over and, Shirley says, have “brought new ideas” to an op shop which mostly simply raises funds for the church, although occasionally helps out in a crisis — like when local photographer Gene Glover lost everything he owned in a house fire last year.

The Georges — 30-somethings with their own young family — affectionately call their predecessors Nana and Papa Bardsley and say they’re proud to be able to carry on the good work.

And if something doesn’t sell for a dollar they’ll just give it away, says Johnny, to help out where there’s a need in the community.

Edith Symes.