BLOG: The journey of a donated sofa

How Stuart’s bargain sofa made Sandie smile and boosted our funds for patient care

Around this festive time of year we’re bombarded with TV ads for big name furniture brands, urging us to buy a new sofa or suite in the sales.

In these challenging financial times, choosing a pre-loved option from one of our charity shops not only makes great economic sense, it’s also better for the environment and supports our care for patients and their loved ones.

We followed a three-piece suite, kindly donated to St Luke’s, on its journey to a grateful new home and measured its impact on the charity.

 When Stuart Cann and his wife, Leanne, ordered a brand new sofa suite there was never any doubt about the destination of their old one. They were going to donate it to St Luke’s Plymouth.

Old is actually the wrong word for the elegant, grey four-seater sofa with matching chair and big, circular footstool that used to grace the football-mad family’s lounge. Less than three years old, it was as smart and comfortable as the day it arrived, and already held good memories for the couple and their children Ella, 13, and Thomas, nine.

“I’ve sat there and enjoyed many a beer and takeaway watching the football. And we had a lot of friends round, crammed into the lounge to watch the Euros,” recalled Stuart.

But as part of an extensive renovation programme at their house in Plymstock, they were having a clean sweep and the suite had to go.

“There was nothing wrong with that settee. We could have put it on one of the marketplace apps and got some money for it. But there are people in more need than us and St Luke’s is a deserving charity, so we thought why not donate it so someone can pick up a decent sofa at a much lower cost,” said Stuart. “Plus, I knew St Luke’s was happy to pick up large furniture, so that made it easy for us.”

Although they have no personal link to St Luke’s, Stuart, a mechanical and electrical project manager, and Leanne, who works in HR at Babcock, had heard about the charity’s end of life care. They believe in giving back to the community when they can and have taken on the challenge of several half marathons and other running events to support cancer and dementia charities.

Meanwhile, Sandie was on a mission to find a sofa – and other essential furniture – for the empty new home of friends who were returning to live in Plymouth after working in America.

Trying to stick to a budget, she’d spent the day trawling charity and second-hand shops around Plymouth with no luck at all. She said: “I went in one shop and everything was out of the 1970s. It was awful… I came out so disheartened.”

Sandie was just about to give up hope and drive away empty-handed when she struck gold at St Luke’s large furniture store on Western Approach. Having one more go at her quest to find something good, reasonably priced and in great condition, she popped into the old ToysRUs building.

“I wandered around but didn’t find anything. I was just leaving when I saw two guys walking towards me carrying a sofa and I moved out of the way for them,” said Sandie. “I thought it looked very nice so I followed them through the store and asked if it was for sale. They said yes, they had just brought it in from the back store.”

She knew immediately that it was the one and decided to buy it straight away. “I was absolutely thrilled. I just love it; it’s so comfortable and it’s still a current sofa in the shop it came from. And I knew it could have it within days. If you order one new it’s still a 6-12 week wait before you can have it delivered.”

Sandie was surprised and delighted to discover such a brilliant quality bargain, and in a shop supporting a charity that is dear to her heart. She was happy to learn that the money raised by the sale of the sofa is the equivalent of St Luke’s providing a full package of care and support for a patient and their family at home.

Sandie’s sister, Vanessa was only 50 when she was diagnosed late with Stage 4 cancer and died at St Luke’s specialist care unit at Turnchapel.

“We only had weeks with her left and St Luke’s hospice care and nurses were just amazing – not only for the patient but for us as family members because we are struggling too and they understand that. Nothing was too much bother for them.”

Sandie, who always donates her own unwanted items, said: “Charity shops are not like they used to be. I remember going in with my mum when I was young and it was terrible – full of old people’s stuff and it would smell. I couldn’t bear it. But you go in now and it’s very modern. I was really surprised by the quality when I went in St Luke’s. It’s definitely worth looking in there.”

Sandie isn’t the only one whose is delighted with the new sofa. Doodles – her tiny 12-year-old Yorkipoo – loves it too.

“When the sofa arrived, he came running in and sniffed it from top to bottom; he has now claimed it as his own,” she said. “I’m still helping to get the place sorted for my friends and every time I’m there I make myself a cup of tea, sit down on the sofa and smile.”

Andrew Collins, manager at St Luke’s Western Approach store in the old ToysRUs building, said using St Luke’s is a great way to save money and help the charity.

“Why buy new when you can buy a quality used piece from us? It’s much more affordable and it’s also helps support the care of St Luke’s patients and their families,” he said. “We always need items to sell to generate income for St Luke’s. All we ask is that they are ‘saleable’, so in reasonable condition, and not broken and without any bits missing. And we’re not able to take sofas unless they have got their fire safety regulation labels.”

St Luke’s stores that stock large items of furniture, including sofas and beds are Western Approach (ToysRUs), Plympton furniture warehouse, Sugar Mill at Plymstock and Launceston. If you are after smaller items, you can also try the Transit Way store. For full store details and opening times click here.

If you have furniture you’d like to donate, St Luke’s runs a free collection service and there’s a special number to call – 01752 964455 – that’s manned all year round, except bank holidays.