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Home PAT Testing news News For Love and Money

For Love and Money

'Glamorous' is the adjective most often applied to Marilyn Beverley, head of retail at St Luke's Hospice.

She is always immaculately turned-out in smart, tailored suits and high heels

So it may come as a surprise to learn that her entire wardrobe is bought from St Luke's charity shops.


Marilyn, 61, developed her skills while working for a major electrical retailer.

She joined St Luke's seven years ago and now heads a business empire with some impressive statistics.

It has 19 shops, 30 paid staff, more than 300 volunteers and makes £400,000 a year profit for St Luke's Hospice.

Marilyn, whose stepmother died at the hospice, said: "I'm a hands-on head of retail.

"I feel part of the organisation and try to make my managers feel the same," she said.

"I talk to them, motivate them and hold regular managers' meetings at the hospice.

"It takes skill to turn unwanted items into cash for St Luke's, but I love my job and the people, and when a bag of donations comes in it's like Christmas."

Marilyn is based at St Luke's warehouse in Plympton, which was set up seven years ago; previously stock was stored above its Devonport shop.

Donations are brought in by the public, and surplus stock is transferred from the shops, which have limited storage space and try to maintain a wide range of items and clothing sizes.

The warehouse was fitted out at virtually no cost, but is incredibly well-organised.

Everything is checked to make sure it is clean, undamaged and fit for sale, and many of the donations which fail the test can be recycled.

But rusty bedsteads and filthy demijohns filled with spiders are most definitely unwelcome! The warehouse has different departments for clothing, wedding dresses, bedding, books, videos and CDs, toys and puzzles, ornaments, haberdashery, sewing machines, glassware, china and picture frames, all destined for its shops.

Electricals used to be a problem because by law they have to be tested by a portable appliance tester.

But two former Royal Navy men on the staff have found the answer.

John Knight, 69, checks every item and prepares it for PAT testing by David Beynon, 60, who took a City and Guilds course and exam to qualify for this role.

The tests take him just a couple of hours a week, but save the hospice GBP250 on the cost of commercial testing of donated items.

David said: "We don't take fridges, as the council charges us to dispose of them, and soon we won't be taking TVs and VCRs once digital becomes standard."

The warehouse volunteers include 80-year-old Morley Hebbard, who lost his wife Audrey in 2003 to cancer of the colon.

He wanted to give something back to the hospice, so twice a week he takes two buses from his home in Milehouse to Plympton to sort books in the warehouse.

Morley said: "You can talk to the other staff and volunteers on the same level, as many have had a similar experience."

But the warehouse is a happy place, where staff work to music and are sometimes found literally dancing in the aisles.

They are currently saving special items for St Luke's One To Remember fashion show on Mothering Sunday, March 18.

The show will have casual, smart, party and Ascot sections featuring donated clothes modelled by volunteers and staff.

Volunteer drivers man three vans shuttling goods to and from the hospice shops, which are found as far afield as Torpoint, Saltash, Callington, Launceston, Tavistock, Kingsbridge and Modbury.

Marilyn said: "When we open a shop, our maintenance team does it and we don't spend a lot on fixtures and fittings - just make sure it's clean and tidy.

"Some of our competitors' shops do look lovely, but our customers and volunteers are pleased that we don't spend too much.

"All our shops are individual and follow the street they are in; we don't have a corporate look," she said.

"We have just started to sell furniture at our shop on Mutley Plain."

One St Luke's shop doing well is at Callington and is run by Alison Gillan and her assistant Margaret Hardy.

About to celebrate its first birthday, it turns over GBP1,000 a week and is exploiting a lucrative gap in the market; there is no children's clothing shop in the town.

Alison said: "We have high standards and a reputation for good prices and a clean shop.

"Margaret changes the window display every Saturday.

"Our town crier, Dennis Cook, buys his fancy waistcoats in here, and is about to shave off his beard in aid of St Luke's."

St Luke's is always looking for more donations and volunteers; please contact your local hospice charity shop.

Source: Access My Library