For very many years now, ever since I left home in fact, I have been regularly taking carrier bags full of books, clothes, "stuff" and "bric-a-brac" down to various libraries, charity shops and hospitals. Funnily enough my place of residence never gets any emptier, but I do try to stop it getting fuller.
After many years of this Sisyphean activity, I was accosted last month (in my post-Christmas clear out mode) in the Princess Alice Hospice shop in Kingston, when dropping off a bag of (what I thought to be) a rather saleable suit, some books, a pair of shoes and some outgrown children's cardigans. "Ah, rumbled", I thought – as the shop is always groaningly full, and I'm surprised that they seem grateful for my humble offerings. "They are going to say they aren't taking more donations. I'll have to walk round to Oxfam or the Romanians round the corner instead."
To the contrary, the gentle older man in the shop asked me if I was a taxpayer, then provided me with a gift-aid form for my donation, which I duly filled in. He then gave me a card with a bar code on it, and asked me to show it if I made any future donations. I've made two more carrier-bag drops since then, as a matter of fact, each time digging out my card from my purse and seeing it scanned in.
Thinking no more of this, I came home from work today to receive a letter from the "Retail Director" of the Princess Alice Hospice. In it, he tells me that my recent donations have raised £104.00 for the hospice, which with gift aid is increased by 28 per cent. Obviously for bureaucratic reasons, he has to suggest that I donate this money to his hospice. If I don't respond to his letter within 21 days, that's what he will do, and claim his extra 28 per cent. I do not plan to respond.
Isn't that marvellous? Three carrier bags of not-very-useful to me, but perfectly clean and serviceable household items, have gained this worthy local organisation £130. If I manage to keep up my average throughout the year, I'll have made them £780. Great stuff – this can actually make a difference to their work, and I feel that is is actually worth scouring the house for things people have not used for a few weeks, in the secure knowledge that they will be put to good use and go to a good cause, rather than my previous sneaking suspicion that they would end up as landfill.