Fire-hit charity Reclaims its place in business
27 Mar 2011 / Emma Joseph
“LIKE a phoenix from the ashes, we’ll rise again.”
Those were the words of horrified Dorset Reclaim staff as they watched the charity’s warehouse burn after an arson attack last year.
Sure enough the organisation, which supplies low-income families with quality household goods, is now celebrating after reopening the doors to that very warehouse in Springbourne, Bournemouth.
A rebuild of the rented premises began last July and while that was taking shape the charity operated out of a nearby unit in Wyndham Road, which has now become a charity outlet – much like a charity shop.
“When the fire struck we lost everything that was in the building,” explained Jo Taylor, the charity’s policy and development manager.
“We lost all our tools and equipment, which was depressing to say the least. Jet washes and sack trucks. The Saturday before we had bought 12 brand new computers that were in the store lock-up.
“But we’ve now got a fantastic new building. This depot produces over a third of our trading income because we survive on trading, so this is the silver lining to the cloud.”
Dorset Reclaim operates by selling donations of furniture, electrical and household goods at reduced prices to families on low-incomes “We don’t charge much,” said Jo
“The charges are just to cover our overheads – rent, vehicle costs, fuel and utilities. We would love to be able to give it away, but we wouldn’t be here next week.
“We take any household item to make a house into a home. We’ve had everything from bikes to toys, garden sheds to caravans.
“Things that people think are too good for the tip, but they don’t know quite what to do with it.”
The charity is just beginning to rebuild its stock levels and now boasts an impressive collection of sofas, beds, mattresses, dining tables and chairs, wardrobes, cookers, fridge freezers, high chairs – the list is endless.
Anyone on a household income of £25,000 or less is welcome to browse the wares, including those who are not claiming benefits.
Although mostly second-hand, the quality of the goods on offer is extremely high, a fact Jo and the rest of the staff and volunteers are extremely proud of.
“When people donate fabric things they’ve got to have fire labels on them and our electrical goods have a three-month guarantee.
“We say to the guys when they’re collecting, if you wouldn’t have it in your home, then don’t expect other people to have it in their home.
“When we started out in 1998 we wanted the ethos to be that even if you were in bad circumstances at the moment, you didn’t feel like a second-class citizen.
“We just get a real buzz from being able to help people.”
And it’s not just customers that benefit from that help.
Fundraising manager Stefan Drummond said: “Over the last ten years we’ve had 4,500 volunteers, of which 50 per cent have found full-time employment and a further 20 per cent of that number go on to further education.
“These are people that don’t get a second chance. They’re ex-addicts or ex-alcoholics or have had a long-term illness.
“Sometimes it’s just mums who have been out of the job market for a while. It’s a confidence builder.
“On top of that, we’ve stopped 25,000 tonnes of landfill in the time we’ve been going.”
The charity is always looking for financial help, whether it be from an individual or a local business, and is particularly keen to get help signwriting its vehicles.
But its main aim is to let people know the phoenix has risen again.
Jo said: “We want to say to people we’ve carried on trading – we’re still here.”
l To find out more about Dorset Reclaim, or to donate furniture or give financial help, visit dorsetreclaim.org.uk or call 01202 773384.
Reproduced courtesy of Bournemouth Daily Echo. Click Here to view original article.