A superstore manager with a supersized heart

Monique Rofe runs Gisborne's Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a beloved community hub.

As a child, Monique Rofe would roll her eyes when her mum would share her op shop finds. These days though, the manager of the Gisborne Habitat for Humanity ReStore is the first to say, 'why buy new when you can get second hand?'

It was her late mum Sue who encouraged her to volunteer at the popular charity shop nearly five years ago, and in March 2021 Monique stepped into the manager's role.

Habitat for Humanity ReStores resell quality new and gently pre-loved goods. Shopping, donating or volunteering at your local ReStore supports Habitat for Humanity's mission to build homes and communities. AMI is proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity, to help achieve their goal of transforming the lives of 75,000 Kiwis over the next three years through warm, dry housing.

"I've done a bit of everything," says Monique of her career, "from electrical testing to truck driving, and everything else you can imagine."

A mum of four, Monique runs a "hobby farm" with her husband where she raises llamas and alpacas. "Every time a child leaves home, I get another one," she laughs. She's very proud to have two new baby llamas join the clan in the past year. "It is the first time I've had baby llamas. It's very cool. I just like to hang out with them, and they mow our lawns!"

The couple used to own a fish and chip shop and Monique was planning to take some time off from work when her mother suggested she volunteer at ReStore – her favourite op shop, selling clothing, furniture and homewares.

The Gisborne ReStore team are rightfully proud of their superstore. They moved to the prominent Gladstone Road location when they outgrew their last premises, but this one is now also bursting at the seams. Their customers are like whānau, with some calling in twice a day to scan the racks for the latest items. "They don't want to miss out on a bargain," says Monique.

"We get on so well with our customers. We really do form relationships with them – we know many by name and we hear about their families and lives. I wish some of them could be my nan. Some upcycle things or they have big families, grandchildren or neighbourhood kids who need clothes."

The 'Gizzy ReStore $10 fill-a-bag special' is always popular, with customers filling a bag with clothing for a bargain price. "I introduced it when I first started, back then we used to do it once a term," explains Monique. "Now we have it on all the time, with a $5 special near Christmas."

The clientele includes a huge range of people – from "farmers' wives looking for Country Road goodies" to avid crafters and families in need.

"I love that my job is different every day," says Monique, "and I know we are making a difference. It's not just a job. We are all doing it for a bigger picture – to help others."

Monique says the ReStore team hears some very tough stories from the community. "I just wish I could help everybody," she says. "There is a massive need out there."

She makes sure the prices in the store make it possible for everyone to get what they need – from utensils to electrical goods, clothes to curtains, linen and more. "I try to keep the necessities priced as low as possible."

Monique has always thrived from helping others. "I don't think there is a better job where you go to work and help people – it is hugely satisfying," she says.

She shares that quality with the 22-strong team at the Gisborne ReStore, who are mostly volunteers, with just three paid staff. Monique is the only full-timer. "It is a great crew, and we all get on so well."