Bad tidings we bring… charity card shop closes

After raising nearly $1.5 million over 44 years, the Canberra Combined Charities Christmas Card Shop won’t be opening this year. KATHRYN VUKOVLJAK finds out why

Dianne Moir… “There’s a general lack of people buying Christmas cards, it’s only really the older generation that are still sending them.” Photo by Kathryn Vukovljak

THE Canberra Combined Charities Christmas Card Shop has closed after 44 years, says volunteer Dianne Moir.

She says a drop in sales, fewer charities getting involved and the burnout of volunteers contributed to the decline of the shop, which won’t open its doors this year.

“Not enough charities meant not enough choice for consumers,” Dianne says.

“There’s also a general lack of people buying Christmas cards, it’s only really the older generation that are still sending them.

“I don’t send as many as I used to, either.”

The volunteer-run card shop was an informal group of ACT-based charities with groups who were interested in selling cards and calendars.

“We’d buy in small gift items to cover costs and distribute the surplus evenly among the charities,” Dianne says.

Over the years, Dianne says 99 charities had been involved to varying degrees, but once it fell below 10 they found it was no longer viable.

“In 2000 we sold $61,000 worth of cards, but then in 2017 we sold $12,000,” she says.

“Another volunteer, Keith Fairbrother, and I were running the shop for the past 10 years, and when it got down to nine charities we gave notice that we would have to close.”

The number of participating charities varied from eight to 32 charities in any one year, with some only involved for one year.

Dianne has calculated that $1,435,927.95 was distributed to participating charities from 1973-2017.

“When I did the spreadsheet I thought it was actually a pretty significant amount that the government didn’t have to give to those charities,” she says.

“For some of the smaller charities it was their only source of income for the year.”

Finding a location for the shop wasn’t always easy, she says, though it was based mainly in the Health Commission Building, CMAG and the Canberra City Uniting Church.

“It became so difficult we almost folded, but the Uniting Church said they were happy to have us for as long as we needed, rent-free, and that was our saving grace,” she says.

The Tuggeranong card shop has closed too, Dianne says, having raised $166,000 from 2004-2017 with 30 charities participating over that time under the management of Barbara Parsons, who had moved to Canberra from Zimbabwe and had run a card shop there.

“Another issue has been that the volunteers are all getting older so there haven’t been as many people involved as there used to be,” Dianne says.

Dianne says she started working in the card shop in the 1980s, and over the years volunteered for the MS Society, SIDS and the Cancer Council.

“I loved the coming together of volunteers and charities, it was a good form of advertising at low cost and I made a lot of friends there,” she says.

“The shops made a huge contribution to charities across the ACT.”

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