Charity shop in French village is lifeline

Volunteers man the Bon Coeur shop which sells a lot of English books

Charity shops are not often part of town or village life in France, but the one in Beauville, Lot-et-Garonne has celebrated giving away more than €50,000 in five years.

Run by the Bon Coeur Association, which is made up mostly of British volunteers, its president, Charles Miskin, said they split money raised about 50/50 between human and animal good causes, mostly local.

“Among about 30 others, we have given to Cancer Support France, a refuge for battered women near Agen, a donkey refuge, an association training guide dogs for the blind and we have recently given €500 to our mairie towards a water fountain.”

Open five days a week in a village with just 580 inhabitants, it is welcomed as part of a small group of shops which help to keep the community alive. The shop owners offer it rent free as they are happy to have it used year-round for charity.

Manned by volunteers, it sells books, 90% of which are in English, clothes, jewellery and household items.

Mr Miskin said: “We try to keep open all year round and there is a constant flow of customers. The donations we receive help us keep a good turnover of goods, and we try to pass on excess to other good causes.”

Bon Coeur (boncoeur47.fr) also organises three big events a year: a 10,000+ book sale on May 1, a Franco-British Pétanque match on July 14 and they run a bar and sell picnics for an annual Shakespeare play by a touring London theatre company.

Volunteers also help at other events and Mr Miskin said he was keen to help groups across France as the idea works anywhere.

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