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Charity Shops - A Bountiful Haven for Project Parts Answered

I've been a member of Instructables for some time now, and browse the site daily, but I have never really engaged in the Community, So this is my First Community Post!

I wanted to share with you a great source of Parts for all you projects, ideas, plans and schemes. Charity Shops! Any decent sized town or city will have at least one, if not several different charity shops which are almost all run by volunteers. These shops get hundreds of items donated to them each week, all of which have to be catalogued, tested, cleaned, priced and sold. Working as a volunteer in one of these shops not only helps a worthy charity, it can also give you experience in fixing/testing electronics and other items. And typically, you can have your pick of any items deemed unsuitable for sale, which would otherwise be binned. These shops are almost always desperate for Volunteers, and will be happy to have new people to help.

Charity Shop - Do's and Don'ts


Help out because you want to help the charity, this is not just for freebies!

Donate any of your old or unwanted items/clothes/books to the shop.

Volunteer as many hours as you can.

Get to know the other Volunteers, these are your coworkers, treat them with respect.


Expect to take things, ask politely and ensure that is is OK with your supervisor.

Take too much, take only what you need, this isn't a free for all.

Be annoyed if nothing turns up in the first few weeks, You're helping a worthy charity, freebies are only an added bonus.

Personally I work in Save the Children which has a local shop in my town. I typically worked for several hours on a Wednesday afternoon, as an initiative within my School. I also worked Saturday mornings, and ran collections whenever they were required. All of the other volunteers are really friendly, it is a great source for components for my projects, they have an extensive book selection, and I can use my two years experience there as Retail Experience for Job Applications.

In my two years of Volunteering, I have been given/salvaged a lot of awesome things, but there are a few highlights:

> Full Size Projector Screen - Almost New Condition, amazing for Movies/Games
> Mini-Television - Given to me because they could not Sell it, Works perfectly, with all Cables
> Numerous broken Electronic Toys - Great source of Components
>Board Game Parts - Scrabble Tiles, Dice, Game Pieces - Great for Craft Projects/Spares

I hope that you have found this information useful, and I hope that you go out and help a worthy charity near you.

Best of Luck,
Tj Cosgrove



9 years ago

I think that's a great idea (this is my first post) when I was at Uni I used to buy a lot of books in Charity Shops. The people got to know me so well they used to let me into the back room (Aladdin’s caves everyone of them I assure you).

They have so much "stuff" they can't sell because it's broken or dirty or weird. I volunteered to go through all the books at RSPCA and get all the torn and damaged ones out of the way. I found about 10 books I wanted and they were so grateful for me going through the other books they insisted I take them for only a tiny donation.

9 years ago

I definitely concur- there are some great things to be had at second-hand locations.

I've often found great optics at thrift stores, salvaged from old cameras.

My local recycling center has been getting a glut of televisions that owners have replaced with LCD TV's.  Because of this, I've scavenged several 1meter²  Fresnel lenses from old big-screen TVs.  I turned one into a packable solar condenser / heat source for solar cooking (boils coffee quick on a good day).

When I used to live in NYC, I'd go "street shopping".  Found many old CPUs that gave up their neodymium magnets to my workshop.  Lots of copy machines that had great motors and optics.

Down in Charleston, SC, the goodwill stores have a hub store called the "pound store".  Pretty much all the clothes that were sent there sold for 15¢ per pound, which became a great way to get fabric.


10 years ago

There are at least 6-7 in my Town, Save the Children cannot sell electrical equipment, as they need a certificate and someone employed to check all items, which they just can't afford. So we either salvage, scrap or donate anything recieved to other shops.


10 years ago

If you are a volunteer, and help with the sorting, you can take certain items with a completely clear conscience - they are not allowed to re-sell safety equipment, and most do not have the equipment or training to test mains electrical equipment for safety and functionality, so they cannot sell that, either. By taking it away, you are actually saving them the cost of disposing of it, since they may have to pay for commercial waste disposal.


Reply 10 years ago

Apparently Colchester has a huge number of charity shops... L


Reply 10 years ago

I bet, per head, they don't have as many as we do - nine in a town of ten thousand.


Reply 10 years ago

9 is a lot, I think my sister counted 19? but that beats my village. Felixtowe has a lot too, but that is crammed with old people... L