CHARITY workers are offering to lift the burden on friends and families faced with clearing houses after their loved ones have died or gone into a home.
The house clearance service, operated across Teesside, Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire, is also providing much-needed funds for St Teresa’s Hospice and stock for its chain of charity shops.
Every year the hospice needs to raise £3.5m to provide free in-patient and community care for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.
COVID, virulent strains of flu and other winter diseases have seen more and more people facing the traumatic task of sorting through relatives’ belongings after they have passed away.
St Teresa’s Hospice head of retail Marjorie McIntyre said: “I think the important thing to remember about this service is how sensitively our teams work. The service is bespoke to the family’s needs, brings them relief and saves them a lot of heartache, while helping a charity at a particularly challenging time.”
House clearance manager Paul Wheatley said: “We have become quite skilled over the years at clearing houses.
“The first step is to locate any important documents including bank details, passports and insurances papers, then valuables such as jewellery and higher value mementos families might like to keep.
“We once located some wedding and engagement rings which a lady had sewn into the hem of a set of curtains to keep them safe from burglars. We were able to give them to the family after she had gone into a home. We also find English and foreign money hidden in drawers, handbags and in the pages of books, which we return, as well as photographs and other keepsakes.”
Teams then sort through furniture, clothing and other household items seeing what can be sold in the charity shops, what can be recycled or salvaged and what has to be thrown away.
“For the charity the house clearances provide around 30 per cent of the stock of our charity shops and therefore raise much-needed funds for St Teresa’s,” Paul said.
“A lot of the furniture goes to our restoration department which is highly skilled at making it serviceable again and we find some lovely pieces, some of which go into our new antiques store in the Cornmill Shopping Centre.”
Paul said many people found sorting through loved ones’ belongings, after they had died or when they had to go into a home, to be very traumatic.
“You can see the relief on people’s faces when we tell them we will sort everything out for them,” he said. “Some actually burst into tears because deciding what to keep and what not to keep invokes memories and can leave them feeling guilty. But when they know it is going to a really worthwhile cause it helps them.”
House clearances range from large private homes and council properties to sheds, garages and even gardens. Paul visits the site and assesses the amount of work involved with prices starting from as little as £250 for a small flat.
“With council houses it’s especially important to get them cleared and cleaned up,” said Paul. “Until they are completely empty, including carpets, curtains and lampshades, the family still has to pay the rent.”
The service can be accessed directly by contacting the hospice on (01325) 488701 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of Darlington’s solicitors and estate agents are also aware of the scheme.
Paul said: “I love my job. I see something new every day. I like the fact that we are helping lift the burden off people at a difficult time and are also raising funds for the hospice at a particularly challenging time for our finances.”