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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Oxfam shop founder dies aged 88
Joe Mitty, founder of Oxfam shops, with Tony and Cherie Blair
Joe Mitty said he was driven by rage at world poverty
The founder of the Oxfam charity shop, Joe Mitty, has died at the age of 88.

Mr Mitty, who died on Sunday night, worked for Oxfam for more than 33 years and set up the charity's first shop in Oxford in 1949.

He earned the nickname "the salesman on the side of the angels", as well as an MBE and a lifetime achievement award, which was presented by Tony Blair.

Oxfam's director Barbara Stocking said: "Joe changed the world forever, and for the better."

Ms Stocking said: "He described himself as a 'little old man', but he was truly a giant among men.

"His death is a great loss to Oxfam and to the world, but his life should be a beacon to everyone."

Donkeys and dentures

Mr Mitty was Oxfam's first paid employee.

His initial responsibility was to manage the accounts and oversee the distribution of clothes from the public across Europe to people left in poverty after World War II.

I had two words - rage and passion. Rage because of the inequality and injustice in the world, and a passion to do something about it
Joe Mitty MBE

However, he soon realised he could sell people's donations on the High Street rather than send them overseas.

Mr Mitty's motto was "If you donate it, we can sell it", and among his more unusual items were a live donkey - sold for 12 pounds and 10 shillings, a house-boat and gold wire from people's old dentures.

The Oxford shop was a huge success and by the early 1960s several more had opened around the country.

By 1971, Oxfam was a household name and its shops were generating more than 1m a year.

They were given a boost by a host of celebrities recruited by Mr Mitty, including Harry Secombe, Laurence Olivier and The Beatles.

'Christopher Columbus'

Oxfam shop founder Joe Mitty and Harry Secombe
Joe Mitty (left) recruited Harry Secombe to promote Oxfam

Mr Mitty officially retired in 1982, but continued inspire the 20,000 volunteers who work in more than 700 Oxfam shops across the UK today.

In 2002, he told a group of shop managers: "I was a sort of Christopher Columbus of the 1940s.

"I had no idea how to price things and when, but I had two words - 'rage' and 'passion'.

"Rage because of the inequality and injustice in the world, and a passion to do something about it."

Last year, Mr Mitty was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the then prime minister at the ITV Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards.

Ms Stocking said: "Without Joe, Oxfam would not be the organisation it is today and his passion and fight to improve the lives of the poor continues amongst our staff and volunteers.

"He was one of the forefathers of Britain's now vibrant charity sector and I am sure the legacy of his work in Oxfam's shops will live on for many years to come."

Mr Mitty, who lost his wife Dorothy in the mid-1990s, leaves two sons, Roger and Andrew, and nine grandchildren.



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