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BLOG: Shock donation was too hot to handle

We never cease to be amazed by some of the weird and wonderful things that turn up in the thousands of bags of pre-loved goods people generously gift to St Luke’s charity shops each year, but last week’s decommissioned hand grenade was a first!

Volunteers at our Drake store in Plymouth city centre got the shock of their lives when they discovered the fortunately harmless weapon of war in a bag handed in on Wednesday morning. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they found the heavy, metal object nestled amongst toy soldiers and other items dropped off by a mystery gentleman.

Staff shop assistant Toby was immediately concerned and called his area manager for guidance.

“I’m a bit of a history fan and the grenade looked genuine to me – and it turns out that it was,” said Toby, one of five staff and volunteers on duty at the time. “Our first job was to contact emergency services and follow evacuation procedures to get everyone out of the building.”

Police were on the scene within minutes and placed a 100-metre cordon around the premises. Royal Navy experts arrived to identify the object, while curious passers-by gathered in the street outside, and Plymouth Live carried the story on their breaking news page. Image credit: Plymouth Live.

After careful examination, the specialist RN team confirmed that the item was, indeed, a potentially deadly hand grenade, but that, thankfully, it was deactivated and therefore not dangerous. They took it away for safe disposal, and it was business as usual at the shop within a couple of hours of the alert being raised.

We’re not sure what went through the donor’s mind when they popped the grenade in the bag. There are very strict legal controls around the sale of military supplies and it’s certainly not the kind of donation St Luke’s is in a position to handle!

“I can’t imagine it was done maliciously or as a prank, but it does make you wonder what they were thinking,” said Toby.

The grenade is probably the most alarming donation St Luke’s has ever received, closely followed by two boxes of live ammunition previously gifted to our Saltash shop by mistake and reclaimed the next day. But you’d be surprised by some of the unsuitable and useless things our staff and volunteers discover on a regular basis, like unwrapped sharp knives and meat cleavers, broken toys, soiled clothing, empty DVD boxes, chipped crockery and half-used tins of paint.

Some items, including sofas, prams, electrical items and extension leads, can’t be resold because they have no appropriate health and safety regulation marks.

“We are always grateful for your donations – we do get some really beautiful things – but please be mindful that we need items that are in good condition and saleable,” added Saltash shop manager Hayley. “Our bill for tipping stuff that’s not suitable for sale is really expensive.

“Some people are really thoughtful about what they give to us. The trick is to think about whether it is something you would be willing to buy. And do bear in mind that a staff member or volunteer (like Rob, pictured) will be sorting through that bag you bring us!”

See the “guide to donating” on our website.

Good condition women’s clothing is always on St Luke’s bestseller list, but each of our shops has its own most popular and seasonal lines. If in doubt, do phone or pop into your local store and have a chat before donating.