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‘Stagger donations’ plea as charity shops overwhelmed with bags of clothes after lockdown

PUBLISHED: 11:00 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:16 29 July 2020

Sophie Moles, retail centre operations manager. St Elizabeth Hospice has been overwhelmed with donations  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Sophie Moles, retail centre operations manager. St Elizabeth Hospice has been overwhelmed with donations Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Charity shops in Suffolk are being deluged with donations from supporters who had a clear-out during lockdown.

Callum Penning, Donna Harley and volunteer Michael Hayes sorting out donations to St Elizabeth Hospice at their Holywells retail centre Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDCallum Penning, Donna Harley and volunteer Michael Hayes sorting out donations to St Elizabeth Hospice at their Holywells retail centre Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charities desperately need funds in the current situation, but, nationally, some shops have had to turn donations away because of the sheer volume.

Recycling organisation Wrap estimated people were set to dispose of 67million clothing items, plus 22million pairs of shoes.

Asklng supporters to stagger donations

St Elizabeth Hospice and East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), which both run scores of charity shops around the area, have seen donations pouring in during July.

Sophie Moles, retail centre operations manager for St Elizabeth Hospice, which has been overwhelmed with donations  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDSophie Moles, retail centre operations manager for St Elizabeth Hospice, which has been overwhelmed with donations Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

St Elizabeth Hospice is carrying out a phased reopening of its 31 charity shops.

It has also seen donations soar, and on average the hospice is taking five van loads – 700 to 1,000 bags a day - at its two retail centre sites, a Martlesham Heath and Holywells in Ipswich.

Customers are being asked not to leave any donations outside the charity shops, but to take them to the two centres, which are open between 10am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday. All donations are accepted by a dedicated team and placed in secure vans, offsite for 72 hours, before being distributed to the charity’s shops.

Jason Rudderham, head of retail at St Elizabeth Hospice, said: “Following the phased re-opening of our shops we have seen large levels of donations, which we are grateful for.

Steve Bond sorting out the hardware items donated to St Elizabeth Hospice Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDSteve Bond sorting out the hardware items donated to St Elizabeth Hospice Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

“But we would encourage our loyal supporters to stagger their donations and to donate them in smaller quantities to aid our storing and distribution of these items, so that we do not become overwhelmed by the generous support.

“We understand this is frustrating, but this ensures the safety of our staff and volunteers, as we all adjust to working together and adapting to the environment brought by the ‘new normal’.”

Mr Rudderham paid tribute to donors, saying: “The community is such a great support to the hospice and that has continued during lockdown, particularly with the fantastic response we have had to our #HereTogether appeal and with the good quality donations we receive to sell in our shops.”

For more details about phased reopening of the hospice’s shops, visit the website.

MORE: Desperate plea to save Suffolk’s charities amid funding crisis

‘160 bags donated in one day’

The EACH charity shop in Sudbury  Picture: EACHThe EACH charity shop in Sudbury Picture: EACH

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Ian Nicolson, EACH acting director of income generation, said: “We have seen a surge in items being dropped off. For example, our Framlingham shop took 160 bags on its first day back earlier this month, around four times the amount it would normally take at this time of year.

“Due to restrictions on handling donations and extra time needed to process them, some of our shops have, and may need to, continue temporarily stopping accepting donations at certain times of day. For this reason, we’re advising people to call ahead, if they can, and check we’re in a position to take their donations.

“Of course, we’re trying as hard as we can to limit this and so far I’m delighted to say our donors have been very patient and understanding. Some have even been telling us they’ve saved their donations especially for us.”

EACH has a total of 43 shops across the region and they are being opened in a gradual and phased way, one reason for this being to ensure they can cope with the number of donations.

Mr Nicolson added: “We can’t thank our donors enough and likewise shoppers who continue to come through the doors, despite the high-street experience being very different at the moment. Our shops provide such a vital part of our income and we hope everyone’s support continues long into the future.”

For full details of EACH shop reopenings and guidance around donations, visit the charity’s website.

Contact-free donation points and free home collections

MORE: EACH charity shops reopen amid fears over funding

Some charities, such as British Heart Foundation, have introduced different ways of donating.

Allison Swaine-Hughes, retail director at the charity, which has shops across East Anglia and the UK, said: “We have been truly humbled by the public’s response since we’ve started reopening our shops. One store received more than 100 bags of donations before lunchtime on the day it opened - double the number we would normally expect in a day.

“We know people have been decluttering during this time, which has helped drive donations to our shops. To help make donating items as safe as possible, we’ve installed new contact-free donation points at the entrance of stores and launched a new freepost donation service, which have both been big hits. Our free home collections are also back up and running for any larger household items people may wish to donate.”

Call to check before donating

A survey by recycling organisation Wrap found 41% of people have had a clear-out of unwanted textiles and clothing during the Covid-19 lockdown, with most storing them at home until they could donate or dispose of them.

Despite the overwhelming support for charity shops, the survey found 14% of people were disposing of clothes in general rubbish.

The sustainability body has launched a Love Your Clothes campaign, and said: “Whether you’re using a charity shop, textile bank, retail take-back scheme or kerbside collections, the golden rule is to check they’re operating before you go.

“Call ahead or look online – check with your local authority – but please never leave clothes in front of a closed charity shop or a full textiles bank.”

For more details on Wrap’s campaign and how to donate and recycle clothes safely, visit the organisation’s website.


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