Manna charity volunteers devastated over shop closure

By Aideen O'Flaherty

VOLUNTEER staff of the Manna Charity Shop in the Brookfield Enterprise Centre in Tallaght have spoken out about their devastation at the planned closure of the store in December.

As reported in The Echo last week, the store is set to close after an unsuccessful years-long fight to be exempt from paying rates.

MANNA Charity Shop 06 compressor

The Manna Shop was set up by the YMCA and John McEvoy from the Tallaght Family Church seven years ago, as a way of helping the community by selling items, including Communion dresses and baby clothes, at affordable prices.

The money raised in the shop is then put into tailored intervention activities for all parents and children living in the area, including the Oasis Counselling Centre and YMCA’s PAKT (Parents and Kids Together) programme.

However, the shop incurs a fee of €1,200 per year in rates, and the shop’s volunteer manager, Lynda Dible, has previously unsuccessfully appealed for the shop to be granted a rates exemption because of their not-for-profit status.

The shop is staffed by a small team of six volunteers and Tús and CE workers, who are on-hand to help customers during the shop’s opening hours of 10am to 2pm every weekday.

With the shop facing closure, a number of volunteer staff members got in touch with The Echo to express their disappointment.

One volunteer worker, who started helping out in the shop shortly after it opened, said: “We look after the customers.

MANNA Charity Shop 06 compressor

Staff volunteers Theresa Kenna, Lynda Dible, Joan Hawkins and Sandra Smith say ‘people in the community depend on our shop’

“We don’t just take their money – when they come into the shop, we greet them with a smile and we welcome them, and if anyone is upset, we listen to them.”

The volunteer, who asked to remain unnamed, said she is “wishing, hoping and praying” that the shop will stay open, and added that she’d be “lost” without it.

Another volunteer, who asked only to be described as a “committed volunteer worker”, said that people in the community “depend on our shop, and our shop helps so many families out there struggling [with] major life events such as Communions, debs and Confirmations.

“These are happy events, but some families need support and help, and that’s exactly what Manna Charity Shop provides.”

MANNA Charity Shop 10 compressor

Customers Liz Whelan and Deirdre Kavanagh

A third volunteer, who has been assisting at the shop for the past five years, said: “We are a very close group of good-hearted and kind people, who are here not only to help families and people in the community who may not have a lot, but also to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on if someone needs a chat about all kinds of issues.

“I really enjoy spending time here, even though I suffer with osteoporosis, but with medication I get up and get on with it.

“There are often people there worse off than myself, as I have experienced this, many times, over the years working here.

“It’s all about supporting and caring for our community.”

The shop is usually left with €1,600 at the end of the year after paying their rent and electricity bills, and the shop’s manager, Ms Dible, previously commented that it would be “illogical for us to stay open if we will be using the money we’ve raised just to pay rates.”

When previously contacted by The Echo, South Dublin County Council stated: “It is the responsibility of the Valuation Office to determine if an organisation is exempt from rates.

“To determine the annual rates, the Valuation Office set the valuation of the property.

“The Local Authority then apply their Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) to this valuation to calculate the annual rates.”

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