Decamot of the month

30 Nov 2018-Time Well Spent

Decamot inspired by the following items: fire engine, atlas, chef, railway arch, robin, The Alps, swimming shorts, doorstep, bowler hat, Christmas tree

An afternoon shift as volunteer in a Charity Shop can turn up an amazing variety of potential treasures. Objets d’Art, old clothes (many past their ‘sell by’ date) Kitchen Bric-a-Brac which may be anything as diverse as a Chef’s Hat or a festive robin ornament to decorate a cake or hang from the Christmas Tree, dog-eared paperbacks, an out of date school Atlas and also, alas, just plain rubbish.

Sadly some people see a Hospice Shop as a modern version of the Scouts Jumble Sale, an easy way to off load out grown (often outworn) faded or damaged items.

Fortunately, fresh “ deliveries’’ come in daily in all shapes and sizes and amongst the dross the better quality donations have their value checked on the internet and are sent to specialist shops, to sell at premium prices for the benefit of the charity.

Christmas is a good time for the receipt of toys which parents have surreptitiously rescued from their children’s bedroom cupboards to make room for the new season’s arrivals. Seasonal decorations help to brighten up even the darkest corner and a festive window display entices passers-by to come and browse, and hopefully to buy.

The following New Year is also an ideal time for shoppers to go in and view the Hospice haul of “unwanted gifts, so kindly meant”.

Here the once-treasured and immaculate Dinkie Toy Fire-Engine, which a doting Uncle finally thought that he would pass down through the family to a young person, who is now unfortunately more interested in a Formula 1 model racing car (preferably powered, and complete with a racing track and competitors cars, of a lesser speed of course), the charming carved book-ends which are surplus to the requirements to today’s Kindle readers, and tea-pots that now are scorned by the modern generation of T-Bag users. Even ‘the dealers’ who regularly appear with magnifying glasses and a check list of what to look out for are scornful of T-Pots, 18-piece matching tea-sets, and watches which haven’t yet had the battery replaced to check that they are in working order may as well be thrown away, and not take up shelf-space. Boxes of Notelets appear to be the replacement for Decorated Stationery, once the mainstay of gift-giving, and with the herald of instant messaging even they are ignored, unwanted by the younger shoppers but are welcomed by an older generation.

Volunteering is either left to the older generation who have ostensibly more time on their hands, or assumed to have nothing better to do with it, both theories having equal merit, and consequently provide a regular source of customers from ‘in house’ as it were. Nostalgic tales of the fun they used to have with this, that and the other are concurred with and a broken or incomplete jig-saw or toy is considered as sacrilege. Take the Scalectrix track which had once been improved by adding a country ‘branch line’ is now missing the railway arch to make it accessible. An unexpected moment of hilarity was had one afternoon with the unpacking of pastimes from yesteryear when a Hula-Hoop prompted an elderly volunteer to demonstrate to the young manager how it worked. Yes we were all impressed by her agility. In a similar vein the arrival of old C.D. collections usually prompts one of us to select old favourites and find customers sing-along on a good day.

Entry to the shop each morning is frequently a disheartening start to the day for the manager who often finds the door step piled high with bags full of donations, whatever the weather, despite polite notices in the shop window requesting that they only bring them during opening hours.

Some days customers are thin on the ground but donations can be overwhelming when storage space is limited. Charity shops can’t afford to pay for large premises but equally need (and thank goodness ‘health & safety’ demand the inclusion of a staff toilet and space for a kitchen corner to provide a hot drink and washing up facility, but negotiating mountains of black bags is like attempting to climb the Alps in darkness.

Not many people realise that even charity shops are led by the seasons. Spring-Cleaning often results in endless trails of local well-wishers bringing copious results of their hard work. A new term prompts a check on their children’s clothing as well as their own adherence to the appearance of new fashions. A pair of out grown swimming shorts may well be stuffed inside a bowler hat left behind by grandpa. Finally, it only remains for us to find a place in the tiny store cupboard for the artificial Christmas tree, alongside the left over Easter Bunnies, and masks awaiting the return of another Guy Fawkes night or Halloween, then it’s back to skis and sledges and hey-ho it’s back to Christmas again.

Before leaving the shop we like to check how many new Gift Aid donors we have signed up and number of raffle ticket sold and whether we have reached the sales target set by Head Office, not many people realise that we have a daily target ‘how?’ one might ask, can sales-targets be reached or be improved when the goods can neither be predicted nor ordered in the conventional retail way? The only answer must be presentation of goods in an orderly and attractive way, regular ‘new stock’ on display by recycling around the number of shops within the group, 17 in the case of our particular Hospice, and provide a bright and pleasant atmosphere in showroom with helpful staff.

"We also serve who stand and wait. "
(John Milton 1608-1674)