Washington community hub 'overwhelmed' by response to school uniform donation scheme

A community hub in Washington has set up an initiative to donate and exchange school clothing as the financial impact of the pandemic starts to bite.

Sunday, 15th August 2021, 4:55 am

The Building Block Community Hub Day Centre in Concord has been “overwhelmed” by the response to its appeal for the donation of school uniforms, PE kit, shoes and trainers to help struggling families meet the cost of new school uniforms.

Project coordinator Aimee Jennings, 25, said: “After we launched our appeal on Facebook we've been inundated with donations of more than 200 bags containing hundreds of items of clothing and at least 30 families have already benefited from the project.

“We all have children here at the hub and we decided to set up the initiative to exchange clothes amongst ourselves but with the cost of clothes being so expensive we decided to expand it to the whole community.”

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School uniform project coordinator Aimee Jennings (right) with parent Rebecca Neal along with children (left to right) Nate Hetherington, four, Reid Hetherington, three, Ivy Neal, three, and Sienna Scott, two.

While clothes can be collected for free, many recipients have also been leaving donations of the clothes their own children have grown out of.

Aimee added: “The families who collected clothes yesterday nearly all donated two items of their own clothing.

“Children grow out of things so fast and this year many of the clothes which families bought have hardly been used due to schools being closed during the pandemic.

“There's currently no support for parents who may be struggling financially to help pay for the cost of these things.

“All the clothes have been washed and are in good condition. There’s nothing here we wouldn’t use for our own kids.”

With most schools now having their own specific uniform, official school blazers, t-shirts and jumpers from “almost all the schools in Washington” can be found at the hub.

One of those to benefit was mother Rebecca Neal, 29, whose family recently fell on hard times after losing their home.

Rebecca was collecting school uniforms for her daughter Ivy, three, and was also hoping to use the service for her son Caci, 12.

She said: “We ended up in the homeless unit in Monkwearmouth and my children started school there which I obviously had to buy uniforms for.

“We’ve now returned to Washington and my son is waiting for confirmation of a place at Washington Academy and so this has been a massively valuable service otherwise I would have faced paying out more money for a second set of uniforms.

“The uniforms and PE kit are so expensive and by the end of each year they've grown out of it. If you have multiple children it can be really expensive.”

Following the success of the response the hub has decided to provide a year round service to support struggling families.

Aimee added: “People can lose jobs and find their circumstances change very quickly.

“We are now getting referrals of families from schools who are also donating us items of uniform from their lost property.

“There’s obviously a stigma to second-hand clothing but I would urge anyone who needs help to get in touch.”

Anyone who would either like to donate, exchange or receive items should contact the hub on its Facebook page or email [email protected]