Stu Robertson manages The Salvation Army Meadowbrook and Loganlea Family Store, a job he loves and describes as “retailing with compassion”.
What does your role entail?
Although my title is family store manager, at times it seems like Entertainment Director, as we have a lot of fun. Once we sort through the goods for quality, we retail the donated clothes, furniture, bric-a-brac and antiques. We are on the frontline with people in the local area.
What do you think is important about the roles of you and your team? We represent the kindness and protection of The Salvation Army. I really believe that it’s important to realise that it’s an unusual business—retailing with compassion. This is the closest that some people will come to a church. This may be their last refuge point—as dramatic as that might sound—so we need to listen to them and get it right.
Who are your customers?
All sorts! There are dealers in antiques and curios, the well-off trying to score some bargains and the less well-off who are happy to be greeted by one of our super-friendly team of volunteers. We also have people who are going through very difficult times come to the store, who are looking for someone they can trust and give them a helping hand.
How do you feel your store is different from other retail shops?
People are important, and not because they buy things. Because of our selection process, we have an extremely low volunteer turnover and all of our team here give out ‘free’ chats and a laugh—because they come from the heart. Many of the team are also specialists in some facet of fashion.
What role does faith play in your life?
It’s hugely significant in my life. I go for earthy authenticity for personal growth in my faith. It’s the mystery of many answered desperate prayers and a couple of miracles that assure me that God is real.
What opportunities do you get to encourage people in their faith?
As a Family Store manager, I’m working with around 30 wonderful and faithful volunteers throughout the week. We’ve laughed together and we’ve sadly said goodbye to a few at funeral services. I do get to pray with some volunteers, which I consider pretty courageous on their part and a privilege on mine.
Away from the store, what are your special areas of interest?
I have two jazz programs I present on the local community radio station. In addition to being on the management of the station, I am involved in communications. So I personally understand the importance of volunteering.
The good thing is that the radio station also looks after Family Stores and promotes various Salvo things like appeals. And finally, after 40 years in some sort of self-imposed musical wilderness, God has reignited my interest in electric bass guitar—I would like to learn to play properly this time.