WHEN Leola Andersen set up a Salvation Army store in North Albury almost three decades ago she knew she had her work cut out for her.
The Union Road building was sweltering in summer and leaked like a sieve in the rain.
But the former hairdresser with a big heart and life-long belief in the Salvos philosophy had found her calling.
“The mission of the Salvation Army is to care for people first and foremost,” she said.
“People talk about agencies like ours as places that hand out food vouchers but we’re much more than that.
“Our ministry starts at the front door; part of our mission is to care for people and it’s great to be able to help people move on in their lives.”
After 29 years Mrs Andersen retired on Friday as the manager of the North Albury Salvation Army store, which shifted to its present site on Mate Street two decades ago.
She said it was a privilege to work with a dedicated team of volunteers.
“We had a young man who hadn’t worked for a long time, who learnt to be part of a team and went on to find full-time work,” she said.
“I think it’s a really important part of the work we do; a lot of people who come in here are fragile through either illness or they’ve lost a partner.
“It’s lovely to be able to see people blossom.”
Mrs Andersen said her children – Alex, Grant and Simone – had supported her work as did her late husband Benny Andersen and late aunt Eva Waters.
“My kids would finish school and help me do the pick-ups,” she said.
“They were terrific support and integral to me being able to spend so much time here.”
Having moved to the Border from Shepparton 40 years ago, Mrs Andersen instantly felt at home at the Salvos store.
“I had a feeling it was a forever job,” she said.
“The store kept my dream alive and my dream now is to be involved in God’s work through welfare, the church and the shop.”
After a three-month break, Mrs Andersen will return to the store as a volunteer.
“It’s been my baby; there’s been lots of pain and hard work, just like with children, but I won’t be able to leave it for very long,” she said.
“I have finished up as a manager because even though my mind didn’t want to go, my body says it’s time.”
Mrs Andersen marked her retirement on Friday with an afternoon tea at the store.