Acorn Reuse closed its doors in March and it hopes to reopen soon. While everyone is keen to reopen as quickly as possible, Acorn may be one of the last. Caroline Spencer explains why…

Hasn’t it been a great time to have a spring clean, a bit of a sort-out in between the working from home, home-schooling the kids, doing Joe Wicks exercises, and binge-watching another series on Netflix?

I won’t be the only one to have bin bags and boxes put aside, full of clothes, books and pre-loved ornaments, patiently waiting for Acorn to reopen its doors.

Many in the team shed a tear when Acorn closed its doors on 20 March due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Acorn is more than just a charity shop and much more than just a social enterprise. It changes lives.

Certainly I miss perusing the paperbacks, picking up a Peppa Pig toy for my grand-daughter, or choosing a soft animal for my dog, and I miss the fact that I will always bump into someone I know who is browsing for a bargain.

But it’s more than that. I miss the people who make it all happen. Customers and volunteers will all tell you that there is a unique camaraderie. The smiles at the tills, the laughs as Chic tries on another wig, the cheery hellos everywhere you go.
Everyone at Acorn pulls together anyway but never more so than now. Acorn General Manager Steve Pearce said: ‘The closure of Reuse has been catastrophic in terms of income, but I’d like to thank our staff who have been fantastic in getting the Nursery open. People have been flexible in what they do and that has been invaluable.

‘Spring is usually the busiest time of the year for the nursery. We had to cancel some orders and we worked hard to rejig the layout, setting up a one-way system and a route through a cordoned-off Reuse Centre to the tills.

‘In order to have safe social distancing measures in place, we set up a queuing system and signage, a procedure for disinfecting trolleys, and safety barriers at the tills.
‘It’s been worth it. Customer feedback has been extremely positive. However, the nursery is selling about 20% of what it would normally sell – and that represents quite a hit.’ The Training and Development projects are also being very much missed by those who attend.

One client, Vicky Morvan, has taken up the 2.6 Challenge, which was launched to help charities when the London Marathon was postponed. Vicky, who has had mental health issues, set herself a sponsored sewing challenge, to create something new every day for 26 days. Her creations will be on sale at Acorn when it reopens.

She said: ‘Because of the lockdown I was struggling with concentration, motivation and routine. The challenge gave me a sense of purpose and a reason to get up and do something productive. It gives you a sense of achievement, doing something so positive each day. It also taught me new skills such as how to sew a buttonhole.’

While we have been closed, we have also been making fabric masks, from donated (washed) fabrics using our sewing machines. Some were given to other charities and vulnerable clients, and others were sold to the public. One member of staff even put together a few planters for clients to have at home so that they could do some gardening in lockdown.

Acorn is part of the Jersey Employment Trust, which helps people with a disability or long-term health condition gain and maintain work. Many of our staff have been working alongside the Salvation Army to deliver food and essentials to some of the most needy in the Island.

And so we are now considering a ‘new normal’. We want to open Reuse as soon as possible, but not until it is safe to do so. Seventy-nine per cent of our staff have a health condition or disability, so many are inevitably in the vulnerable category. We are delighted to report that they are all safe, and we intend to keep it that way. At the heart of everything we do is our fundamental ethos: Clients first. And so this applies to the timing of our reopening. For example, many of our clients travel by bus and we don’t want to put them in any unnecessary danger.

Handling second-hand goods brings risks. Official guidelines say that we need a system in place so that we can store items for 72 hours before putting them out for sale, to reduce the risks of the virus contaminating the shop. We will need to factor in additional staff to double-handle the donations. We are investing in some temporary storage containers and making sure that we have a robust and safe system when we open our doors to the public.

We hope that our valued customers understand, and that they hold on to their bags of items that are ready to be handed over, just a few more weeks perhaps, and we will gladly have them just as soon as we can.

*To keep up to date with opening hours for the site in Trinity or the collection point at La Collette, please follow the Acorn Enterprises page on Facebook.

*To donate, go to JustGiving and search ‘Acorn Business For Good’ or ‘Victoria Morvan sewing’.