AT this time of year, charity shops across Britain see an influx of donations.

As new toys and gifts have arrived in many homes over Christmas, they quickly become the new favourites as older ones are abandoned for the latest playthings.

It can sometimes become a struggle to accommodate them all and more often than not, a rehoming exercise ensues. 

It’s not just the children who might find an abundance of gifts under the tree either, grown-ups may also find their wardrobes and drawers in need of a "sort out" as brand-new outfits, coats, shoes, boots, bags and accessories have suddenly made an appearance. 

Devon Air Ambulance has 19 charity shops across the county and welcomes your donations which all help towards environmental sustainability. By donating to them, you are not only saving the planet, but also supporting the huge cost of providing a vital emergency medical service to us all.

But... the charity wants to make sure that it is able to make the most of your donations, and that it doesn’t incur any unnecessary costs. 

It is vital that donations are NOT LEFT OUTSIDE closed charity shops, these immediately become unsaleable as boxes and bags are soiled by dogs, rummaged through by passers-by and damaged by inclement weather, not to mention becoming potential safety hazards blocking doorways and pavements. In effect, although our initial intentions are good, leaving donations outside a closed shop is akin to leaving a bag of rubbish that the charity must then dispose of.

Pete Vallance, Head of Business Development at Devon Air Ambulance said: "There is nothing we would like more than for you to donate your pre-loved items to us and we want every single item to contribute to our life-saving service.

"Our shops are hugely successful thanks to the kind people of Devon who keep us well stocked with everything from clothes and accessories, to toys, games, books and bric-a-brac.

"It is unfortunate and costly to the charity when items are left outside shops that are closed, so I urge you, please wait until our shops reopen on January 4 and don't be tempted to drive by and drop off your items before then."

Follow these simple tips when gathering your donations together:

• Make sure they are completely saleable and not damaged, incomplete or broken – a simple test is to ask yourself: Would I buy it? 

• Deliver your donations in bags and boxes that can also be donated as special tubs and storage boxes cannot usually be returned. 

• Wrap more fragile items in bubble wrap or suitable packaging so they don’t become damaged in transit. 

• Make sure toys, jigsaw puzzles and games with playing pieces are complete – any incomplete ones will have to be disposed of as they are unsaleable. 

• Devon Air Ambulance can also accept small electrical goods but they must be known to be in good working order – a faulty electrical item should be disposed of at home. 

• Books can also be donated and those that are not in the best condition will still be accepted as the charity will pass them on to recyclers who will pay the charity in exchange. 

• Clothing that has minor defaults or flaws can also be accepted, such as a missing button or broken zip. 

• Vintage items are welcomed and should be wrapped carefully to avoid any damage 

• If you have large amount of donations, call ahead and make sure the shop you are visiting can accommodate a big intake in one go.

As well as the more usual items often donated, Devon Air Ambulance also accept more unusual items including old mobile telephones, postcards, foreign coins and used postage stamps. All of these can be handed in at any one of its 19 shops in Devon.

You can find a full list of what can and cannot be donated to Devon Air Ambulance shops on the website: .

Devon Air Ambulance shops will be open to receive your kind donations from Wednesday, January 4.