Great North Air Ambulance goes it alone on clothes-collection bags

Charity eschews private firms in favour of its own fleet of vans

Charities that use commercial companies to operate clothes collections but do not run shops might not be popular with those that do have stores, but one charity will make half a million pounds this financial year by cutting out the middlemen and running its own collection service.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service, which does not own any shops, has said it will raise £500,000 in 2009/10 by using its fleet of 26 vans to distribute 13,000 clothing collection bags a day in Northumberland, County Durham, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

It will sell the clothes directly to rag merchants in eastern Europe.

Steve Walton, operations manager of the charity's trading arm, said it had considered entering into arrangements with commercial clothing collection firms but had decided to go it alone.

"It was difficult to set the system up, but in the long run it has definitely been worth it," he said.

Lekha Klouda, director of the Association of Charity Shops, said: "This is a high-risk fundraising activity, but it means the charity gets a good deal."

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