Shocking as it may seem, charities are seeing an increasing amount of torn, dirty and unwearable clothes and shoes and in some cases, other truly revolting ‘donations’ left inside shops or in clothing banks.
Brendan Dempsey, regional manager for St Vincent De Paul (SVP) in Cork, says the amount of time and money wasted disposing of useless and often offensive rubbish is taking its toll on the charity.
“We have 33 shops across Cork city and county and while most people are very generous and donate good quality items to us, others leave the most appalling things,” he says. “We get lots of stained pillows and duvets which are often in a shocking condition and have also had used nappies which is obviously an awful thing to find.
“But the worst items are found in our clothing recycling bins – on one occasion someone put a bag of fish into the bin which destroyed everything else in there and even worse, someone once put a dead dog wrapped up in a blanket into the clothing bank – that was a terrible thing to do.”
Not only are these acts causing unnecessary stress for the volunteers who give up their time to the various charities, but it also reduces the money going to those who need it.
“Dumping rubbish or items which are not in a fit state costs us a lot of time and money,” says Dempsey. “You would not believe the hours our volunteers spend sifting through everything and then we have to pay to dispose of the garbage which is literally taking food off the tables of the poorest people in society.
“We urge people who are abusing the system to stop and think before they do it and instead of giving us their rubbish, dispose of it themselves. Also to note that we don’t take electrical goods and likewise toys, books and jigsaws are usually not in a good enough condition to pass on so we would discourage people from donating them. What we really need at SVP is ladies clothes in a wearable condition, so if anyone has some they can donate, we would be very grateful and as always are so thankful to all the good people who donate and buy from our shops.”
Oonagh O’Mahony of the Irish Cancer Society says they are very well supported with donations from the public and while they do receive goods which are not in a fit state to sell, most people will ensure the items they give away are clean and in good condition.
“We do get some broken toys and dirty or torn clothes but we are fortunate that most people are very good about what they donate,” she says. “Donations of clean clothes and good quality books, CD’s, DVD’s, linen, shoes and household goods all help us to raise funds for the ICS and it’s a great way for people who may not have the funds to donate to charity to do their bit – and we are very grateful to them.”
Gillian Murphy of Enable Ireland says they also need good quality ladies and men’s clothes as well as handbags and bric-a-brac.
“These items sell really well and help to raise the most money for our services,” she says. “We get lots of donations of high street labels but we’d love to get more designer items. Everyone has a nice dress or a jacket in their wardrobe that doesn’t fit anymore or isn’t their style but they are holding onto it. This is the type of item that we love to see donated, as we know we can get a good price for it and 100% of our profits go to supporting our disability services around the country.”
Murphy urges people to think twice before putting something aside for charity. “People see it as a way to get rid of things and help a good cause,” she says. “But I would encourage them to hold up each item before donating and ask, ‘Is this something I would buy from a charity shop?’ If the answer is no, don’t donate it because in that case rather than helping a charity you are actually costing us money as our wastage costs have increased by 12.5% nationally from 2015-2016, this is a huge unnecessary cost for us.”
Another issue which can hamper charitable work is bogus collections. Murphy says it is important to always check credentials.
“We have done a lot over the last few years to tackle the issue of bogus collectors including adapting our textile banks to make them more secure and adjusting our operations to stay one step ahead of the bogus collectors,” she says.
Legitimate charity clothing collectors, like Enable Ireland drivers will always have: Official ID, Registered charity number, Landline phone number, Organisation’s logo on collection bags and vans, ISCA logo (Irish Charity Shops Association).
“But the safest way to donate to us is to drop your donating directly into an Enable Ireland shop, any of our service centres or into any TK Maxx store nationwide.”