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23 the magic number for West End’s tuckshop queen

P&C President, Vanessa Bertagnole and Helen

The West End State School tuckshop has farewelled a true legend, with long-time convenor, Helen Goupis packing up her very last brown paper bags after 23 years of service.

Helen started her time as part of the West End State School P&C in 1998 as Vice President and tuckshop representative. At the time, the tuckshop was running at a loss, so along with fellow P&C member and friend, Chrissa, she was tasked with seeing what could be done to turn it around.

After hiring a new convenor, Helen started helping out a few mornings a week after she dropped her kids off at school. She also picked up a full-day volunteer shift, so it was quickly becoming a big part of her life.

Helen and Chrissa were eventually added to the payroll, and after other priorities made it impossible for the existing convenor to stay, in 2000, they both stayed on as co-convenors.

The rest, as they say, is history.

With three of her own children attending the school, the role was a natural fit for Helen. And after they graduated and moved on to high school, it was her love of the work, her teammates and the school community that made Helen stay.

“We all shared a great work relationship and that has also grown into a great friendship outside of work as well,” Helen explained.

The West End State School tuckshop team in 2022

Over the years, Helen saw lots of change, describing online ordering as the biggest one.

“It was a game changer… so much easier than the old cash handling days. And so much easier than the hand-written bags we had to open each morning, to make sure the correct money was in there.”

Another game changer was the introduction of the Queensland Government’s Smart Choices – Healthy Food and Drink Supply Strategy for Queensland Schools in 2007.

“The biggest challenge was trying to convince parents and children that the traffic light system was going to work and be of great benefit to the students and help create a healthier school,” Helen said. 

“We had students holding on to their money so they could go to the local 7/11 store after school and buy junk food from there.

“But online ordering helped us in that regard, because parents could then be sure that what they were ordering for their child, was what they were getting.”

Throughout her time in the tuckshop, Helen watched the school go from 500 students, to 1,500+…and still growing!

Serving those hungry kids was an absolute highlight, with Friday burgers, their homemade Pastitsio, and bolognaise, with secret vegies thrown in, their biggest sellers.

“I have served students at the school, who have gone on to become teachers, then have come back to the school as new teaching staff… and they still remembered us!” Helen said.

“I still laugh to this day, when I remember explaining to a little prep student, that the monopoly money he was wanting to use, does not work at the tuckshop.  He was convinced it was real dollars.”

“West End State School has a wonderful community spirit and it’s been amazing meeting so many fantastic people.

“You really have to be a people person to work in a tuckshop and I have loved every minute of it.”

Helen plans to keep busy by looking after her five beautiful grandchildren and is planning an overseas trip later in the year.

We wish her every success in her future endeavours and look forward to continuing to work with the team at the West End State School tuckshop.

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