It’s 9.45am on a bright Wednesday morning in Market Street in Hoylake. The cafés and bars are preparing their morning coffee and brunch offers, setting out neat tables and chairs for their customers in the open air as well as spacing them safely indoors.
Some retailers are also open and taking the necessary precautions so that their customers can shop safely whilst observing the current coronavirus guidelines.
Wirral Hospice St John’s big new Hoylake Donation Centre (HDC), at the former site of the Coop store, adjacent to The Row in Hoylake, is already buzzing with staff and volunteers sifting through thousands of items of clothing, toys, household items, bags, and jewellery as well as all kinds of weird (occasionally) and wonderful bric-a-brac and accessories that piled in the week before.
From rags (gratefully accepted as we can get a donation for recycling them) to potential riches, witness Hayley in the designer sunglasses alongside other potentially lucrative branded clothing, shoes, handbags and eye-catching curios which will be sorted for the hospice ebay account.
It’s only the second week of operation but the HDC is in full swing. Everything that has been donated in the previous week has now been safely quarantined (has to be for at least 72 hours).
As the centre is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, between 10am and 3pm for donations, all of the previous week’s goodies are now being furiously sorted for re-distribution to the charity shops.
There’s 6,000 square feet of space with the floors clearly marked off ready for the influx of new donors who have booked a slot to drop off their goods at the rear of the donation centre!
At five minutes to ten the first car arrives with a boot (and back seat) full of boxes and bin bags ready to stack onto the loading bay at the rear of the store.
Our supporters have followed the instructions at www.wirralhospice.org/shopping to book a slot and then received an email with a map explaining how to get to the back of the store at their chosen time.
Paddy (Patrick Smith, the hospice’s Retail Development Manager, thumbs up in the pic at the top of this story) is ready, alongside a further two fundraising staff (today it’s Hayley and Jamie-Leigh, pictured below, although a number of others have helped the week before and are ready to step in for the foreseeable future), to greet the hospice supporters, direct them to safely lay down their pre-loved items and then, if they’re eligible, advise them on how to sign-up to Gift Aid to allow the hospice to claim a further 25% on their donated items.
Now, the the safe movement and storage begins and, let me tell you, it’s a virtual marathon!
A steady stream of donors start to unload and, after labelling the bags and boxes which are gift-aided, the team start to make the journey, laden with bags, into the space inside and then back outside to receive/carry more and more goods.
By 11am the team have already clocked up over 4,000 steps each and their biceps and quadriceps are burning. A great workout, just another 4 or 5 hours to go!
Meanwhile, Kerry (in green here), Sue (in hospice blue below) and Helen (too shy for photo), who normally volunteer at our New Brighton shop, are in the ‘space beyond storage’, opening bin bags and boxes, at socially distanced tables, while organizing everything ready for transport to our shops at Moreton, Liscard, Birkenhead and New Brighton which have recently re-opened.
In time our other charity shops, at Claughton, Heswall and West Kirby, will also open and the stock that is now flooding into the Hoylake Donation Centre will help to fill up their rails, shelves and displays.
Having to close the shops these past several months due to the coronavirus has inevitably hit revenues hard. All of the donations and the hard work of staff and volunteers gives us all the greatest belief that we will, as soon as allowed, rebuild the charity shops back to making their massive financial contribution to the specialist care and support services for which the hospice is held in such high regard.
There is now a limited service for people wanting to donate larger items, sofas, three-piece suites, beds, wardrobes and other furniture items. Time and space is currently at a premium for this and potential donors are being asked to send photos, with fire labels where appropriate, to firstname.lastname@example.org to join the waiting list for pick up.
There are also opportunities for people who live in or close to Hoylake, and who might like to volunteer to help with sorting goods, to join the effort. Any people who may have some time to spare, can use the same email address to register their interest.