Isabel Hospice in plea over poor quality of items donated to charity including dirty potties, stained clothes, damaged toys
Dirty potties and highchairs, stained clothing, damaged toys and even a bin bag of household waste are just some of the rejected items which have been donated to Isabel Hospice.
Hospice chiefs say they are grateful for the support they have been getting, particularly after the disastrous lockdown periods they have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.
The charity’s chief executive, Helen Glenister, who lives in Bishop's Stortford, recently spent a morning at its donation centre in Welwyn Garden City to see first-hand the huge volume of items that come in and the enormous effort that goes into sorting every single thing received.
But managers say they have seen an increase in the number of items they cannot sell, and the charity, which has shops in Bridge Street, Bishop's Stortford, and Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth, often has to bear the cost of disposing of them.
These donations are either sold to the rag trade for a few pence per item or end up going to landfill, at a cost to the charity of a staggering £70,000 a year.
Retail operations manager Leila Clarke said: “The coronavirus pandemic has been disastrous for our shops, especially during the many months they had to remain closed, which resulted in a significant shortfall in the vital income they help to generate to fund our specialist care. We are therefore incredibly thankful for those who have continued to think of Isabel Hospice during their really difficult time.
"However, unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the number of items which we cannot sell, and when we’re talking about upwards of 30,000 items to be sorted each week, that's a lot of time we're spending going through people’s broken and damaged things."
Leila added: “On any given day, it's not unusual for our retail team to fill three to four wheelie bins with items that have no value to our charity but cost us to dispose of. That’s vital funds that could be paying for our care, especially at a time when we're looking to expand our services for the people of eastern Hertfordshire.”
Warehouse manager Wendy Harper added: “I think most people would be shocked at some of the things that pass through our warehouse. Staff sort by hand, so firstly it's a health and safety issue when they're handling dirty or broken items.
“Secondly, we have no means to wash or clean things, so if you send in a stained T-shirt it will go straight to rag or in the bin.
"If you donate a plant pot that's grimy and dirty it will have to be thrown away. We inspect every item we receive and that all takes time and money.”
Unsellable items that have been donated to the hospice recently have included dirty highchairs and potties, stained and ripped clothing, broken toys, chipped crockery and glassware, burnt saucepans and even a bin bag of household waste.
Leila added: “We constantly need to replenish our stock, so it's crucial that people keep on donating to the hospice. However, we're operating in a highly competitive market these days, so for our shops to continue to compete against the high street chains we must continually raise the quality of the items we stock and sell.
“We all like to think that the things we no longer want or need still have value to someone, but our customers shop with us because they're looking for high-quality bargains, not the things you might find at a jumble or boot sale."
* The Isabel Hospice donation van will be parked at Bishop's Stortford rugby club, Silver Leys, Hadham Road, on Wednesday (July 14) from 10am to 2pm for your donations. The following Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (July 21-23) it will be in the car park at Tesco, Bishops Park, from 10am to 2pm.