Saved from the bin! Charity shop staff hunt for mistaken items

The broken china, retrieved by Samaritans volunteers from dustbins at the Sidmouth charity shop

The broken china, retrieved by Samaritans volunteers from dustbins at the Sidmouth charity shop - Credit: Sidmouth Samaritans shop

Items donated by accident to a charity shop by a generous visitor to Devon were retrieved four days later thanks to volunteers searching through dustbins.

Tania Stewart-Davies, an optometrist from east London, was in Devon clearing a property after her mother sadly died last month.

Tania Stewart-Davies with her late mother, Christiane Stewart

Tania Stewart-Davies with her late mother, Christiane Stewart - Credit: Tania Stewart-Davies

Tania donated much of the contents to the Samaritans charity shop in Sidmouth, giving items ranging from everyday household objects to an original painting. The donations were handed over rapidly at the shop, with Tania having to sort some items on the pavement in bad weather.

One donation included some damaged broken blue china crockery - but little did Tania know that this had already been promised by her late mother to a mutual friend for use in an artwork.

“The staff at the shop were fantastic at what was a very difficult time for me.” Said Tania who works at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London. “I had just cleared my mother’s flat, was parked on double yellow lines and had a lot of items to donate. It was pretty stressful but they greeted me with a big heart and a cup of tea. They were lovely.
“Then a few days later I found out the crockery had already been promised to my friend and I then had to contact the Samaritans to explain. Thankfully it wasn’t too late. The volunteers at the shop had decided they couldn’t use the broken crockery anyway so had thrown it out, but they found the items in the dustbin”, recalls Tania.

The amateur artist who was promised the crockery, Sarah Holliday, lives in Sidmouth and works as a theatre assistant at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.

“I’m hoping to use the crockery either to be soldered into place surrounding a mirror, or to be cemented onto a stone to go in a garden. Either way, this will end up as a commemorative piece for Tania’s mother”, said Sarah.

Both Tania and Sarah have spoken highly of the staff at the Samaritans shop, which opened last year and is now fully operational again after the latest lockdown.

“All’s well that ends well - thankfully!” said Mel Whittock, director of the Samaritans branch for Exeter, Mid & East Devon.
“Our shop is operated entirely by volunteers and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am until 4pm. It’s a financial lifeline for the charity, which relies entirely on voluntary donations. We’re delighted that our team went the extra mile –– and dug through the bins –– to help Tania and Sarah.”