Vintage boutique boosts community projects

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BUSINESS is booming at a vintage thrift shop launched to help boost community projects.

Charity Fiscus opened the shop in September, selling a host of second-hand clothing to raise cash for good causes.

As the end of the year approaches, workers there are looking back with pride.

Kind-hearted donors have handed in enough clothes to fill 45 black sacks, including a huge bag of buttons.

A total of 32 new donors have come on board since the charity shop in Stockton Road, Sunderland, opened its doors.

Volunteers have put in more than 235 hours since the end of September.

Among them are 72-year-old Doris Bates, from Farringdon, who previously volunteered at a Salvation Army charity shop for 10 years; Emily Alexander, 18, from Seaham, who left St Anthony’s after sitting A-levels in the summer and is currently doing a college course and looking for work; and Julie Neary, 50, who lives in Thornill and works part-time for the DWP in Seaham.

Between them, they work shifts at the store which, with its stripped wooden floors and huge ornate mirror, could pass for a designer haven.

Fiscus chief executive Anita Heskett-Saddington said: “Everyone has been commenting on how different and high quality Recycle Boutique is.

“When people realise what Recycle Boutique is aiming to do for the local community, they are supporting us 100 per cent with some customers coming back with a bag of donations after buying items.

“We could never have anticipated such amazing local support and commitment to others but the message is clear, community spirit is alive and kicking in Sunderland. Recycle Boutique is proof of that.”

The boutique recently received a cash boost from St Michael’s ward Community First Panel for its Green Volunteers Project.

Now bosses there are hoping to recruit more green volunteers from St Michael’s ward and across the city.

The Government-funded initiative handed over a £1,669 grant, which will be used to buy a new steamer, a computer and to pay for volunteer training.

Recycle Boutique is also backed by Gentoo Living, which works in partnership with Fiscus to support Gentoo tenants.

Based in Sunderland for seven years, the charity offers a range of advice including money MoTs for tenants, support for people starting their own business or looking for work, specialist welfare benefits and debt advice for older people, disabled people and their carers.

Over last 18 months before the boutique opened, Fiscus in Partnership with Gentoo Living and Home Housing has provided advice to 1,422 tenants and identified £2million in unclaimed benefits.

Fiscus Advice team has also dealt with £1.1million in personal debt problems.

Recycle Boutique urgently needs donations of clothes, shoes and accessories – and volunteers to sell them. Donations can be brought along to the shop or Fiscus will collect from your home. To donate or to volunteer, tel. 565 7605.

Twitter: @janethejourno