Charity — and bargains — begin at the charity shop

2014-01-06 00:00

NEEDING a bargain or wanting to get rid of unwanted gifts? The local charity shop is a trove of treasures, eager to accept any donation.

Pietermaritzburg residents regularly show where their hearts lie by supporting the well-known charity shops that exist to fund various good causes.

The charity shop concept originated in Britain and was a means to channel funding to the needy. It was during World War 2 that the concept became widespread.

The Red Cross opened its first charity shop at 17 Old Bond Street, London, in 1941. For the duration of the war, over 200 “permanent” Red Cross gift shops and about 150 temporary Red Cross shops were opened.

The first Oxfam charity shop in the United Kingdom was established in Broad Street, Oxford, and began trading in February 1948.

The idea of re-selling used and unwanted goods through a store was welcomed locally because the profit mark-up on goods is low and the stores are able to run on a shoestring budget without the marketing frills demanded by conventional businesses.

People in Pietermaritzburg and Howick support charity shops for a number of reasons, but mainly because they know the goods are donated and because the income is channelled to a good cause. The shops are often popular with people who have to live on a tight budget. But it is not only the needy who frequent these stores, there are great bargains to be snapped up.

Environmentally minded people prefer to buy second-hand goods as this uses fewer natural resources. Re-using second-hand items is a form of recycling.

People who oppose cheap goods mass produced in sweat shops often buy second-hand clothing.

Warren Oxford–Hugget, CEO of Msunduzi Hospice, said that their hospice charity shop is very well supported by the local community and on average it earned R3 000 per day last year.

He said donations were made by people who used the hospice services and ordinary people wanting to help.

Oxford-Hugget said that clothes were the most popular items sold, but that clients ranged across the spectrum from average workers who popped in on their way to work, to the well-heeled ladies who popped in looking for a bargain. He said they once had two Gucci handbags donated and they managed to sell these items at R750 apiece.

Their bookshop is also well known for its huge range of books and specialised sections and they also support schools with donations of books from their excess stock.

The Howick Hospice also has a charity shop that sells a wide range of donated goods. The Umgeni SPCA has four charity shops scattered around Howick, and the Msunduzi SPCA has a well supported charity shop in Hilton. In addition to their goods, they sell animal food and dog beds. All of the funds go towards supporting the work done by the staff and the volunteers.

Heather Somerville, from the Umgeni SPCA, said: “Most people think we are all about finding homes for animals but our core function is preventing cruelty and sterilising animals to prevent overpopulation. We need staff and vehicles and a steady and reliable source of income.”

FreeMe, an organisation that rehabilitates injured wild animals, runs a charity shop in Pietermaritzburg.

The Anglican cathedral in central Pietermaritzburg has a charity shop called The Care Shop.

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