False teeth, bullets, condoms, marriage and birth certificates are just some of the donated items that staff at Cookstown’s Save The Children shop have been unwilling to display in their window.
The charity outlet, which this week celebrated 25 years since its opening, has been inundated with a wide variety of weird and wonderful donations at its Molesworth Street premises.
Tonnes of clothes, bric-a-brac and children’s toys have helped the store raise a staggering £857,000 for children’s charities since 1990, but it was the unexpected items found in jacket pockets that caused the biggest stir among staff.
Former shop leader, Yvonne Devlin said that whenever she came across a set of dentures she always placed them in a glass jar in the window.
“I’d have them there all day, smiling at me, until someone would rush in looking very flustered indeed.
“Once a woman explained that her hubby had come home late the night before and accidentally placed his coat over a bag of items intended for the store. She was in a real state.
“We’ve also found bullets and other unmentionables in men’s jacket pockets, and large sums of cash in handbags.
“Fortunately, we’ve usually been able to trace the owners and return any items of value.
“A lot of important documents such as driving licenses, marriage and birth certificates also find their way to our store.
“We’re grateful for all donations but some of the things we unpack are quite strange.”
Local school children and a crowd of volunteers, some of whom have notched up more than forty years working for the charity, attended a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday morning to celebrate the store’s anniversary and its newly refurbished interior.
Hazel Irwin, who has been a volunteer with the local branch since 1972, recalled how they first opened the shop in a pokey room above Tony Eastwood’s bar.
“We were only open on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings in those days. The shop was a small part of our fundraising efforts which included flag days.
“Right from the start we had a great bunch of volunteers and the social buzz has always been a big part of our success story. Many of our regular customers come in for a chat; it’s a vital lifeline in that regard.”
Her colleague Noreen Twigg, who began volunteering in 1971, said they wanted to continue until the store reached the £1m fundraising mark.
“We intend to keep volunteering for as long as we can. We help children all over the world and it’s a very rewarding experience.”
Elizabeth Munnis, Regional Retail Manager for Save the Children in Northern Ireland thanked everyone who attended the ceremony.
“The shop is a vital part of the community in Cookstown and we couldn’t raise our funds without the support from our volunteers and customers.
“We also rely on local donations of stock and I am delighted we can offer such fantastic bargains with many designer items at a fraction of their price.”
The shop, which is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, is always on the hunt for volunteers and donations.