Thirty years of volunteer work

WALK THROUGH any British high street and you will encounter dozens of second-hand charity shops. In fact, you would be surprised at what you can pick up in such shops – designer labels such as Windsmoor, Jaeger, Ralph Lauren and Armani to name but a few.

In Portugal, charity shops aren’t as popular and, usually, unwanted items are discreetly donated to a local church or a Santa Casa de Misericórdia institution.

All the more surprising, then, that a troupe of volunteers has been running a successful second-hand shop right in the heart of Carcavelos, in Praça do Junqueiro, among the whitewashed villas and expensive hotels.

Trash and Treasure charity shop has been operating from Carcavelos for over 30 years and, during this time, has raised thousands of euros for charitable causes.

Thirty-one years ago, the shop was running from a disused hospital laundry and the volunteers sold items to raise funds for the British Hospital. But when the hospital needed the laundry back, Cable & Wireless company lent a big warehouse at the back of St. Julian’s School, rent free, until 1971 when the company sold out. “We had to look for other premises and it took us over one year; and that’s when we opened here in 1973!” remembered Margaret Reddish, one of the longest serving volunteers.

The revolution was beneficial for the charity because, to this day, the shop still pays a low rent. But this scenario could soon change with the recent alterations to rental laws.

Trash and Treasure has charity status and is registered with the government’s Segurança Social. “We work a little bit like Oxfam, but we don’t have trade goods and most of the items we sell aren’t donations; they are commissioned sales,” she explains. This means a client brings an item in and receives 75 per cent of the sale price when the article is sold – the remaining 25 per cent is kept for charity.

Margaret says that the Portuguese, traditionally, have not been used to buying second-hand goods, although she thinks this idea is gradually dying. “There aren’t many charity shops around. There were three in Cascais, but they have now closed,” she adds. Margaret believes that Portuguese people only come to Trash and Treasure because it isn’t an obvious charity shop.

Also, given the current economic climate, the shop has seen quite a few new customers, as people want to raise a little money on things they would have usually given away in the past.

The shop needs a basic number of nine volunteers every half day and has about 40 helpers altogether. As an association, the charity has members who vote for which charity they would like the money raised to go to. The charities are researched and voted upon twice a year. Normally, there are four or five charities, such as the Gaiatos Boys’ Home in Setúbal, the HIV/AIDS organisation GADS and Sister Agnes’ Crèche in Algés. Recently, 1,000 euros were given to the Sintra Dogs’ Home.

• Those wishing to raise money or give a donation to Trash and Treasure can do so by calling Margaret Reddish on 214 576 276, 963 688 823 or by popping into the shop during weekdays, between 10.30am-12.30pm or 3pm-5.30pm, and the first Saturday of the month between 10.30am-12.30pm.