The Donation Centre dream team at one of Cornwall Hospice Care’s sites

Helping to fund the care we provide, are the huge number of donated items we receive each week. They come in via our Donation Centre network and are then distributed to our shops for sale. It’s a huge operation and it starts with our supporters, as Tamsin Thomas found out when she spent the morning working at our Daniel’s Lane Donation Centre.

Opening for the day

It’s 9 o’clock on Monday morning and as I report to the St Austell Donation Centre and Alex Long, the Donations Hub Manager, the vans taking goods to our shops, have already left. Neil Rowe, Donations Assistant, is preparing to open the Donation Centre. He briefs me on what to put in each Dolav, basically a giant crate. Donations from those who qualify for Gift Aid in one, books in another and it seems business is brisk; “Last Wednesday we had 167 vehicles come through”, says Neil, “and on Saturday when my colleague Pip was here, 133 cars and vans dropped by with donations. It means we’re a bit short on cages for the bric-a-brac.”

Neil’s been working for Cornwall Hospice Care for 4 years and confirms he’s very much a face of the charity, meeting a huge number of people who drop off their unwanted items. He shows me how to log the cars, the Gift Aiders, each crate we fill and then he throws open the shutter and the first car pulls up straight away! We gratefully receive bags of clothes, toys, a ride on unicorn and Play Doh. We’re underway. A second car immediately follows with cushions, games, curtains and CDs, then a third. “It’s because we’re closed on a Sunday” explains Neil, “Mondays are always like this.”

Finding the best home

Items of furniture are checked by the St Austell Furniture store team who Neil calls in via walkie-talkie and if acceptable, are put in a fenced off area where a brand new stand-alone bath is already waiting, along with a very tall lamp. “We watch out for certain things and send them to specific shops. We send a lot of pet items to Perranporth for the dog walkers market and we’re always on the lookout for goods that are suitable for our Retro stores.”

Four cars and two phone calls in and it’s only 9.13am. Neil explains how he recognises his regular donors and in many cases already knows if they’re able to Gift Aid their donations. He leans across as another car arrives; “This gentleman always brings us good books.” Another lady appears; “I always donate here, it’s easy and I’m supporting our local hospices. Sometimes I park up, go in to the furniture shop and buy more items straight away!”

It’s 10am and volunteer Helene arrives at the donation centre, allowing Neil to head off to exchange the full crates for empty ones. “I’ve worked in charity retail and understand the value of volunteers”, she tells me. “I love this role. I meet people and I’m happy doing something positive for the charity. I’ve been doing this for nearly a year now and I enjoy the chance to have a rummage. If I see something a bit different I’ll research it and take it to our eBay team.  I got involved thanks to my neighbour, Sue Dutton, who manages our St Blazey shop.”

Making the most of what we accept

The vehicles keep coming, cars and vans, and Helene is adept at signing up new donors to Gift Aid, explaining how we’ll get an extra 25p more per £1 from the tax man. She and the next volunteer to arrive, Beverley work together seamlessly, I name them and Neil as the Donation Centre Dream Team as they cheerfully accept donations and gently, politely, refuse those items they can’t take, which on the day are used socks, furniture without fire labels, broken toys and medical items.

Beverley explains she’s been volunteering for a couple of months. “My Sister-in-Law told me I needed something to do. I only live up the road and so this role is perfect.”

Facts and figures

By midday we’ve greeted the occupants of 61 vehicles, filled five giant crates and four cages of bric-a-brac. Neil who’s swift with his mental arithmetic, tells me that’s a donation every three minutes.   In fact by the end of the day the team had welcomed 166 cars and I take my hat off to them. We’re all here thanks to the money we raise through our retail offer and our fundraising activities and the generosity of our community.

Thank you Neil, Helene and Beverley for your humour, your professionalism, your time, your commitment and your team work – you really are a Donation Centre Dream Team.

Find out more

You can check what items we can and can’t accept, where you can donate your items, donation centre opening hours and much more on our Donate to Us webpage.

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