15 May 2020

COVID-19 clean out? Vinnies is getting ready to take your donations

| Elka Wood
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Open-for-business sign outside Vinnies store in Merimbula.

Vinnies shops throughout Canberra and regional areas are opening again, including this store in Merimbula. Photo: Elka Wood.

Have you used your spare time at home during COVID-19 social distancing restrictions to go through stuff in your back shed or garage? Cleaned out a few cupboards? If so, you’re not alone and many of us are now wondering when charities such as The Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society will be ready to take donations again.

“I definitely used the time at home to go through a few things,” says Mel Nowak, of Tura Beach on the NSW South Coast. “I’d say I’ve got a few trailer loads ready to donate.”

According to Lindsay Rae, director of commercial operations, St Vincent de Paul Society for the Canberra/Goulburn region – which covers an area beginning at the Victorian border and up the South Coast to Batemans Bay, west through Goulburn, Crookwell and West Wyalong to Lake Cargelligo, and south through Cootamundra, Tumut, the Snowy Mountains and the ACT – shops that closed during COVID-19 restrictions are slowly beginning to open but it may still be a number of weeks before some stores are ready to take donations.

Plans for reopening are dependent on the amount of storage available onsite at the 27 shops across the region, and the availability of volunteers, many who are in the high-risk age category for COVID-19, especially in regional areas.

“We know many people have been using this period of time to clear out their homes and donations are piling up,” says Lindsay. “We’re grateful for people thinking of us for their donations and ask for your understanding that we may not be able to accept all donations at this time.”

Two Vinnies charity bins with tape across the front to stop donated items going in them.

Please don’t give to charities until their shops are ready to sort and store donated items. Photo: Elka Wood.

Where possible, Vinnies has continued to accept donations but the organisation must have the storage capacity to quarantine all donations for 72 hours.

“Many shops that are open are accepting donations,” explains Lindsay. “However, each shop has different storage capacity and may need to restrict donations to allow for the 72 hours quarantine time before sorting.”

As well as quarantining donations, Vinnies shops are adhering to retail health recommendations, including limiting the number of people in shops at any one time.

“Each shop is determining the hours they can open to best meet the needs of their local community, and these may change as conditions are continually assessed,” says Lindsay.

If, like Mel, you have a big pile of donations ready to go, remember to close the consumer loop and shop at charity shops or buy secondhand items where you can.

If Vinnies gets a big glut of donations post COVID-19 cleanout, Lindsay says they’ll be sent overseas.

“Any excess donations we are unable to process will be sent overseas in line with our usual operating procedures,” he says.

Mel is a big fan of buying from op-shops. “It’s a pretty big win when you find something you need at an op-shop,” she says. “I’ve really missed op-shopping. I love doing a big tour of all the op-shops and garage sales in our area. It’s like a treasure hunt!”

For Lindsay and the Vinnies team, opening stores again means they can continue to fund programs which help vulnerable Australians.

“We’ve continued to run our programs, where possible, throughout the COVID-19 crisis,” he says. “We are extremely grateful for all donations people make to Vinnies as we rely on the generosity of donors to continue providing assistance to vulnerable people in the community.”

Leading up to winter, Vinnies is seeking blankets and warm clothing – warm men’s clothing in particular – and, as always, asks that donations are clean and in good condition.

To find out if your local Vinnies is taking donations yet, visit the organisation’s website or call the shop directly.

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