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Hidden treasures aiding drought stricken farmers

DREAMING BIG: Drought Angels directors Tash Johnston and Jenny Gailey at their new charity store, Hidden Treasures.
DREAMING BIG: Drought Angels directors Tash Johnston and Jenny Gailey at their new charity store, Hidden Treasures. Julia Baker

WHEN Drought Angels first hit the local charity scene, it did so with the intention of helping struggling farmers for six months - that was three years ago.

Since then, the charity has grown so much that last week it opened the doors to its very own charity shop.

"When we started we thought we'd do it for six weeks to six months and the drought would break and everything would be all right again,” Drought Angels director Tash Johnston said.

"But as we kept going, we could just see the need in rural Australia was far bigger.”

Located on Wambo St, Chinchilla, Hidden Treasures is the culmination of six months of planning by Ms Johnston and co-director Jenny Gailey, who until recently were operating the charity from shipping containers in MsJohnston's backyard.

"We've been our own charity now for 12 months, so I guess we're trying to diversify and not just rely on public donations. I was thinking how else can we fundraise?” Ms Johnston said.

"This space became available and so we rented here and about 12 months ago got the warehouse set up.”

The idea for a charity store was born from a need for Drought Angels to be able to sustain its operational and overhead costs as it expands.

"In Brisbane you have all the charity shops, so we decided to open up a charity shop and my husband's a carpenter so I said, 'Do you think we can build a shop in here?'

"As I thought about it more and looked around the cities, I thought 'I think this could work'.”

Ms Johnston said Drought Angels needed to become sustainable and support two full-time roles to ensure its funds continued to go directly to farmers who were struggling financially.

"I've always been a big believer in when you donate to charity, you want as much as possible to go directly to those who need it,” MsJohnston said.

"As we're growing, we need to figure out... how to become a little bit more sustainable ourselves.

"Anyone can come and shop here and the money raised is all going towards our operational costs.

"It has just gotten too big for us to keep volunteering - it's consuming two full-time roles.”

Ms Johnston said she was now seeking volunteers and donations for the store.

"We want it to feel like people are coming into a gift shop, not a second-hand shop,” Ms Johnston said.

"We need donations of household items, clothes with the tags still on them, kids' toys, furniture, books and bric-a-brac - and we're always looking for food donations for families.”

Ms Johnston said the rapid growth of Drought Angels had been "amazing” and she hoped to open more charity shops moving forward, but for now she was happy to focus on Hidden Treasures and clear out her backyard.

"We just have to get the shipping containers taken away and I'll have a backyard again,” she said.

"I'd love to grow from one shop. If we could get to the point where we could open up a couple more shops in rural communities, that would be awesome.”

The shop will open Tuesday to Saturdays.


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