Donate unwanted Christmas gifts to charity

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Bernadette Harrington found Graham Norton’s latest novel in a Barnardos shop in Dun Laoghaire.

The children’s charity has seven stores in Ireland and Harrington is the Barnardos store manager. “I go back and forth to stores all the time. The books I like appear. I always check the shelves for anything from the author I currently love.

The children’s charity has seven stores in Ireland and Harrington is the Barnardos store manager. She is delighted to have purchased the black and white Mac. “It’s perfect for work and goes with everything.”

Barnardos’ public appeal for unwanted gift donations to their stores went out earlier this month. The response has been good, says Harrington.

“But we’re always happy to get more. It’s that time of year – when people have good clearance, then maybe they would consider us. If you received something too small, too big or just not right for you – clothing, shoes, accessories, children’s items, household items – we will find a home for it.

The categories of gifts offered vary from year to year. “Since Covid, with people working from home, reading has exploded. People buy new books for themselves. And then someone also gives them the same book – so we get a lot of new books.

Parents give toys that are not appropriate for their child’s age. The children themselves are also generous. “Some children receive so much. They often want to help others who are less fortunate.

Teacher gifts are also present. “There are only so many scented candles a teacher can light in a year. Male teachers tend to get toiletry bags, which they often give away.”

While good-quality pre-loved items make up most of what’s on sale at Barnardos stores, Harrington says new unwanted gifts attract a different customer. “People like it when they can give something away that they won’t use. The charity shops have an unusual and different role from the rest of the high street. People often feel affiliated with a charity.

Stores like the one in Barnardos are an integral part of the circular economy. “We’ve all been there: we receive a gift, we think ‘it’s just not me’, we feel guilty for giving it and we fear that the person who gave it will find out. Yet this item may be someone else’s treasure.

Barnardos also has two bridal shops – in Wexford and Dun Laoghaire, selling brand new bridal items at around a third of the normal price. “A lot of brides want to start their special day by doing something positive for a charity. And they’ve invested the money they’ve saved into another element of the wedding.

Barnardos stores are a vital source of income for the charity. In addition to helping build sustainability in the marketplace, funds generated from each donated item go directly to Barnardos’ work with nearly 18,000 children/families nationwide.

Thinking sustainably

Advice from Megan Kennedy-Woodard, co-author of the new book Changing the Course of Climate Anxiety, to help families think sustainably:

  • Cultivate contentment. Express the joy you feel when you spend quality time with your child without the influence, noise, and distraction of things. Cook together, listen to music, go for a walk, play a silly game.
  • To slow down. Take time often to look at the natural world. Remember that we can find a bit of nature wherever we are, in a leaf, a stone, the sky.
  • Explain to children that all materials come from somewhere and will inevitably go somewhere.
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