At the Enable Ireland shop on Kieran Street, Kilkenny
In 2021 Kilkenny Arts Office organised a community art project, Knitted Together 2. The project brought over 230 individuals and community groups together to create hand-knitted and crocheted blankets and donated them to local charity shops in Kilkenny to help offset the financial pressure they faced due to lockdown.
As a charity shop enthusiast, Arts Officer Mary Butler knows that these sometimes-overlooked outlets are among retail’s best-kept secrets.
“For anyone who is yet to discover the joy of charity shopping, you are in for a treat,” she said. “Charity shops offer so much in terms of clothing, shoes, gifts and surprises, you just never know what may turn up, what someone has brought in, and this only adds to the excitement.”
The adage of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ no longer fits the modern charity shop model. These stylish boutique shopping experiences are a credible, sustainable, and cherished alternative to commercial shopping.
In this article we look at some of Kilkenny’s local charity shops, The Jack and Jill Foundation, National Council for the Blind Ireland (NCBI), The Samaritans, Irish Cancer Society, Enable Ireland, and St Vincent de Paul (SVP) and the treasures they hold.
Each charity shop purchase pays back three-fold. It supports the work of charities, providing a unique experience for people to shop affordably and gives a new lease of life to preloved items in a sustainable and philanthropic way.
“One of the great advantages of buying from a charity shop is that we offer gifts and everyday items at affordable prices,” Carol Duggan of St Vincent de Paul Butts Green explained.
“As well as supporting a very worthwhile cause, customers will be able to purchase something a little different from mainstream retail shops,” added Deirdre Power of the Irish Cancer Society shop on Parliament Street.
“For example, we have a collection of framed oil paintings donated to us by local artists. We also have festive candles, novelty socks and jumpers, accessories and toiletry gift sets, many of which are new in original packaging.”
These treasures come at bargain prices. People can expect to find brand-new, top-quality products as Rachel Walsh Lawlor of NCBI, Castlecomer told us.
“We have a Ted Baker window display with four brand new dresses, all with original tags and pricing. Charity shops offer good quality clothing and items at affordable prices”
Long gone are the days when a charity shop was merely the final resting place for household bric-a-brac.
The modern charity shop is a carefully managed, curated, and merchandised treasure trove. It is a place of wonder to explore and find unique one-off pieces, local craft, and designer brands like Ted Baker, Aynsley, Beleek, plus clothes, jewellery and decorations.
“A charity shop is a store of true serendipity,” said Barry Dempsey of the Jack and Jill Foundation on Friary Street. “That is the act of finding something of value through chance. Jack and Jill has the largest selection of books and records of any shop in
Kilkenny and many designer brands at a fraction of high street prices. We also have a great toy department of the kiddies, young and old.”
Lockdown was extremely difficult for the charity sector who rely on the generosity of their local community to raise funds.
The charities reported ‘very negative’ effects of the lockdown for the work they do, calling it a ‘huge blow’ to the operation with fundraising ‘at an all-time low’. Income was cut from shop revenue, donations, church gate collections and flag days. The loss of revenue will inevitably have a knock-on effect on what the organisations can offer the families they support in the coming months.
The Knitted Together 2 project was funded by Creative Ireland as part of its Age-Friendly Initiatives, the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCI) as part of the Governments ‘Keep Well’ campaign and is supported by Age-Friendly and Healthy Ireland Kilkenny programmes.
The charity shops involved reported increased footfall and new visitors, many of whom had never been in a charity shop before. The project has raised over €3,500 for the participating stores.
“We are most grateful for the project as it had brought new customers into our shop,” said Joseph Byrne from NCBI on High Street. “We would like to thank the Arts Office for choosing our charity shop and the wonderfully talented craftspeople for creating such beautiful gifts.”
The exquisite handmade blankets are available for purchase priced from €34.95. The profits go towards the charity shop in full. Kilkenny Arts Office has carefully considered the gift-wrapping of each stunning woollen blanket, presented in a gorgeous eco-friendly bag, and includes a colourful postcard explaining the meaning behind the Knitted Together 2 project.
“Knitted Together 2 was a great community-based project, showing tremendous skill and talent by all who were involved in knitting the squares and assembling the beautiful handmade blankets,” according to Ann Quinn from Samaritans, Kieran Street.
“These gifts can adorn a bed, chair, or be used to snuggle under on a sofa! The sale of the blankets contributed enormously to our proceeds and was much appreciated as we had been closed for such a long time.”
The Arts Office hopes that people will consider these unique, handmade treasures as a present for a loved one or a gorgeous new adornment for their home.
“The Arts office project has shown the wider public, how people through their skill and talent can support charity shops,” said Ray O’Meara from Enable Ireland on Kieran Street.
“Knitted Together 2 has helped us raise much-needed funds, not just from the direct sale of the wonderful, knitted blankets, but also because it brought people into the charity shops who may not have been in one before,” he added. “ It allowed them to see the high standard and great value of clothes, footwear, and homewares that we sell.
“I recommend that people make their local charity shop their first port of call when shopping for gifts.”
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