A uni-recycling initiative which re-shares school uniforms to help families struggling with rising costs is hoping to expand further.
Starting at Heeley Parish Church during lockdown, the project entails having a blue bin next to the foodbank collection box outside the church, where people can deposit any uniform no longer needed.
Popup stalls are held for any items to be resold at a small cost, ranging from 10p and going up to £1.
Team leader Joanne McCarthy was one of the founders of the scheme and says the issues facing lots of parents came apparent when her daughter’s class faced a long spell away from school because of Covid-19:
“When she went back to school and I went to get her uniform, she’d grown out of it. I asked a couple of charity shops and they weren’t taking donations because of Covid. I got quite upset and it just suddenly hit me towards the end of the pandemic: what would we have done had I not been able to replace the winter boots that no longer fitted? What would we have done as a family? It was something that I took for granted, so we got chatting as a team to look at what we could do to help.”
Louise Bettridge is part of the project as well and says the power of prayer and helping others was a key inspiration:
“I had been on an Alpha course and we were discussing providing for each other and how God provides for us. We asked if we could imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t get buy pair of shoes for your child. We prayed about it and then Joanne mentioned that she’d love to set something up around helping people and families.”
“It grew from there and it felt like God had answered our prayers.”
Over £1,700 has been raised in sales and a recent donation of £650 has come from local businesses and council funding. 100% of any profit made goes straight back into the project, and plans are now in place to create a dedicated website.
This is in addition to the existing Facebook page which helps promote when the uni-recycling stalls are taking place.
Joanne says they took time to make sure they took the correct approach around marketing, especially when trying to reduce any stigma for people needing help:
“I remember that feeling of being a child where my shoes were getting tight and I didn’t want to say anything because I knew the pressure it would put on my parents.
“I just thought if we advertise this, we’ve got to be careful what we do. Because if this is just a church jumble sale or a uniform bank, there are still people out there that might feel put off by it. We decided to run it as a recycling project, which is great environmentally but on the flip side of it we’re helping people that are struggling as well.”
A key highlight in 2023 has been the listing of uni-recycling on the websites of a local school, with bins in place there for drop off points.
Joanne, Louise and the team have been working hard to engage more schools in the area to work on the project, with more and more families coming forward both seeking help and looking to help others.
Louise adds that it’s helping to bring communities together:
“People are coming from a wide range of areas for help, both from affluent and deprived parts of the city. We want to grow further afield; the help we’ve given so far is about recycling and stopping any stigma around people asking for help. Lots of working families are struggling and we’re accessible to anyone in need.
“I think a lot of families do feel pressure because you can be looking at £30 just for a blazer. If you’ve got three children, you’re paying £30 a blazer each, and that’s without the trousers, shirt, shoes, socks and everything else. People can buy a blazer for a pound here, which makes a huge, huge difference. We’ve seen the joy on children’s faces who have maybe never had a new blazer before. It’s a picture in your mind that will never go.”
You can find out more about the uni-recycle group on their Facebook page: Uni-Recycle | Facebook
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