A vibrant group of women is at the centre of community life in Branxton.
They are the volunteers at the town’s Anglican Parish op-shop and they are the heart and soul of the shop known as The DJs of Branxton.
These women lovingly wash and press items before they are placed on racks for sale and everything is sorted according to size to make it easier for customers.
It all started in 1995 inside the Anglican Church hall on Cessnock Road.
A few donations were placed on two or three racks and Lyn Carter was there when it started.
“There has always been a need in the community for an op-shop,” Mrs Carter said.
“The shop opened one morning a week back then and now we are open five mornings a week.
“It is a busy place.
“The op-shop contributes thousands of dollars to help people in the parish each year.
“We are often so busy, especially when we open on a Tuesday morning, that we can’t spend as much time chatting to our customers as we would like.”
The op-shop is more than a place to buy pre-loved or recycled clothing and household items.
It is also a gathering place where groups of customers and volunteers can be heard laughing and chatting, filling the hall with contagious good will.
“It’s a huge part of our community, an important part, and it has grown since we started,” Mrs Carter said.
“We have customers from Newcastle, Singleton, Cessnock and Maitland because of the quality of donations we receive.
“On occasion we have customers call in here on their way to weddings in the vineyards.”
The op-shop’s annual fashion parade, which started in 1998, has become a must-see event.
“I got the idea from another event and I thought it would be a great way for the community to see what we have on offer at the shop.
“The parades attract about 100 guests and we serve Devonshire tea.
“It is not unusual for guests to buy the whole outfit worn by one of our six models who choose four outfits each to parade on the runway.
“And we often have guests who ask for an outfit in a different colour or size.”