Oxfam Opens its First Charity Shop
Not all revolutions start with gunfire. Oxfam – originally the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief – was founded in 1942, and after WWII ended became very involved in collecting and distributing old clothing to countries devastated by the conflict. The first paid employee of Oxfam, Joe Mitty, thought that turning the clothing into cash – easier to send overseas, and convertible into things that might be more urgently needed – made sense. He began selling donations of clothing and anything else the public would give at no. 17 Broad Street in Oxford, a late Victorian building that now bears a blue plaque to commemorate that step.
The venture proved successful. Oxfam today has thousands of shops around the world, of which about 750 are in the UK. These days the shops provide needy people overseas with work as well as funding, selling crafts, textiles and so on made by them. But donated items are still big business for the charity – indeed Oxfam is the biggest retailer of second-hand books in Europe.
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