Woodend wildlife op shop opens

Sandy Howe has opened Wildlife Shelters Op Shop in Woodend after years of wanting to do more to help protect our native wildlife.

A new op shop has opened in Woodend to provide much-needed financial support for our regional wildlife rescue and shelter services.
Woodend local Sandy Howe has opened Wildlife Shelters Op Shop, at 42 Urquhart Street, after years of wanting to do more to help protect our native wildlife.
Having worked for the neighbouring Salvos Store for almost a decade, Ms Howe said the op shop was a natural way of bringing together her love of native wildlife and her expertise and skills in retail.
“I live on acreage in Woodend and every day I drive down Black Forest Road and see the casualties from the night before,” she said.
“We also have hunters shooting wildlife in the Black Forest and I have always felt helpless and wanted to do more to help these animals that can’t defend themselves.”
Entirely self-funded and backed by the generous donations and volunteer efforts of Woodend locals, Ms Howe has secured a small personal loan to get the op shop up and running. She continues to run the op shop while supporting children through her role as a teacher’s aide at a local school.
“I have always wanted to do more to help our local wildlife, but I haven’t had the time or ability to help rehabilitate the animals,” she said.
“The op shop is something I know how to do, and a good way to fundraise to get much-needed funds to the people who are doing the hard work with these animals.”
The Wildlife Shelter Op Shop’s first beneficiary will be the Trentham-based wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre, Five Freedoms Animal Rescue.
Its operator Manfred Zabinskas is a well-known figure in the area, regarded by many as the ‘go-to man’ to help with any native wildlife rescues. In 2020, Mr Zabinskas received a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to animal welfare.
“We are delighted that this op shop is opening. Not only are we receiving funding and support, but it supports the idea of re-using and recycling, which is so important in our world of commercialism,” Mr Zabinskas said.
“It’s a lovely idea and funding is very much needed to help support our native wildlife.”
Mr Zabinskas and his partner and co-operator of Five Freedoms, Helen Round, recently calculated that it cost about $42,000 a year in dry feed, milk powders and medications alone to operate their shelter at full capacity.
That figure does not include the cost of the fuel Mr Zabinskas requires to attend specialist rescues or the tranquilisers needed to subdue animals.
He estimates he has spent $32,000 alone of his own money on tranquilisers sometimes needed to dart animals in rescues.
“Community support for our shelter is really good, but our costs are huge, and we both need to work in order to pay the bills,” Mr Zabinskas said.
“Any op-shop that has animal welfare as a core value and that supports re-using and recycling is really fantastic and appreciated.”
Every month the op shop will donate profits to a different chosen local regional shelter or rescue service.
Ms Howe hopes that both locals and visitors to Woodend will take the time to make a day out of op-shopping and visiting some of the great local attractions the Macedon Ranges has to offer.
“We will be opening seven days a week,” Ms Howe said.
“I really wanted visitors to our region to have another option for shopping on the weekends, as some stores in Woodend are closed on Sundays.”
Ms Howe said that so far, she had been blown away by the generosity of locals wanting to support the op-shop. She is hopeful Macedon Ranges locals will continue to offer that support in the future.
“What we need now is for good quality, clean donations to keep coming and for volunteers to help us run the store. We also need people to come and visit and shop with us!”
Ms Howe also wants people to consider that when they shop at the Wildlife Shelters Op Shop they are supporting a very important cause.
“One of the reasons I am doing this is that these animals really have no voice. It is up to us, as human beings, to be that voice, and I am hoping that we can make a difference to them through what we are doing here.”