GALLERY, op shop, pantry, drop-in centre – there are bits of all those in a new enterprise in North Albury.
The Commons is the baby of the Goodlife Community Co-op that was formed six months ago by a group that includes Charles Sturt University sociologist Helen Masterman-Smith.
“Really it’s about providing practical support on social justice and sustainability and bringing the community together and seeing how we can deal with the root causes of those issues,” she said.
A shopfront on Mate Street, The Commons offers free food, which would otherwise go to landfill, tools to borrow and a variety of donated goods.
A wall is being used for art displays with the work of Xavier High School students featuring in the opening exhibit.
Ms Masterman-Smith said the venture was being funded through hiring out the premises and supporters’ donations.
She said since informally opening last week more than 150 people had visited.
They include a battling musician, unable to afford an instrument, who put on an impromptu concert of Dire Straits songs when he walked in on Monday and spotted a guitar.
“It’s a very experimental community space and because anyone in the community can join the co-op for $5 a year everybody can have a say and bring their ideas,” Ms Masterman-Smith said.
Plans are under way to form gardening and cooking clubs with surplus plants and food generated to flow to The Commons.
Ms Masterman-Smith said the venture was part of the move to a share economy which on a commercial level has seen the creation of businesses such as Uber and airbnb.
Among those excited is German immigrant Paul Mannings who moved eight months ago to Rutherglen from the Blue Mountains and has become a co-op director.
“I think it’s amazing and I’m in awe of what’s happening at this place,” Mr Mannings said.
“People who don’t have much money, they come in and freely donate $10 or $20 which I would never have expected.
“My original expectation was that people would come in and get food and leave, but they come in and they’re giving and they say ‘I can’t believe there is a shop like this’.
“It’s beautiful what it does to people’s minds and it touches my heart.”
The Commons, which has been planned for nine months, will be officially opened from 6pm Thursday.
Speakers will talk about how the shopfront will assist the disadvantaged, animals and the environment.
“Our motto is ‘give what you can, take what you need’,” Ms Masterman-Smith