Wear it and share it – welcome to Our Community Wardrobe

Sally Maher had spent years raising money or taking in donations to collect toys at Christmas and chocolate eggs at Easter for families in need.

Calatyst’s Bekki Williamson looks through items donated by colleagues for clothing suitable for a small child who was urgently in need of help when she arrived

When, in December 2022, a mother asked her if her small boy could have coat instead, she thought she could help.

Sally put out an appeal on Facebook and, within days, had offers of a hundred coats.

And so, the Our Community Wardrobe Oldham was born.

Meeting an ‘enormous need’

Since then, just 14 months ago, the project has provided clothes for a staggering 6,300 families in the Oldham area, referred to it by a growing network of schools, social workers, voluntary groups and charities.

Catalyst Services UK, which is based in Delph, Oldham, has also assisting with a donation from its new Catalyst Community Fund.

The £2,000 annual fund is provides donations to selected organisations put forward to Catalyst colleagues, or those of businesses in the company’s supply chain.

Our Community Wardrobe, recommended by Catalyst finance assistant Bekki Williamson, is the first to be helped.

Bekki Williamson with all the donations from the Oldham Community Wardrobe

Sally Maher said: “We’re very pleased Catalyst has been able to help. Businesses and individuals have been very generous to us since the clothing bank was first set up.

“They could see the enormous need we’re helping to meet. Our aim is to end clothing poverty in Oldham, because it clearly exists.

“There are a lot of families struggling in the area but there are also a lot of people who want to help.

“We want to get back to the old ways of people in our community pulling together when help is needed. So far, it’s working.”

Learning to wear, share and pass on

Through Bekki, colleagues at Catalyst have also stepped in to support Our Community Wardrobe, recently donating eight bags of clothes to the project.

She explained: “We’ve looked in our own wardrobes and seen what we can do without. Some people have more clothes than they really need, so instead of just storing them for no reason, why not help others by giving them to Sally and her volunteer helpers?”

Bekki has also donated a pram, as her toddler trades up to a buggy. Prams are just the sort of expensive items many families squeezed by recent soaring prices have had difficulty affording.

Catalyst Your Community Wardrobe

The ethos behind the Our Community Wardrobe is ‘Wear it, share it, pass it on’, says Sally.

She added: “Having nice things is important, but people helping us realise that when they’re no longer needed, perhaps because their child has grown up, or their tastes change, they can pass them on to another family who will value them all over again.

“We work closely with primary schools, in particular, across Oldham, and we’ll be promoting this approach with pop up events in the coming months.

“We’ll set up sharing tables in schools where parents can come and donate an item and, perhaps, take away something else they need instead. We’ll also be working with teachers to tell children about the value of recycling.”

A need that won’t go away

Until now, Sally has been storing donated clothes where she can. Baby clothes are in her grown-up daughter’s bedroom. Her partner has built a big shed in the garden, now full of clothes.

Another important location is Springhead Congregational Church, in Radcliffe Church, Oldham. The church has given Sally free use of a room to store clothes.

A donation event is held there every Friday.

It all points to Our Community Wardrobe bursting at the seams.

young child looking through donations to the community wardrobe

Which is why Sally is in the process of applying for the project to become a registered charity.

Then, she hopes, with more business and community support, they can open a proper storage facility, making it easier for people to donate and receive the clothes and other items they urgently need.

That need will not go away.

Single parents, victims of domestic violence, people on low pay or who are unable to work due to disability, and others who have lost their jobs, are all among those who benefit from Our Community Wardrobe’s work.

And the generosity of a growing number of other people who are showing they care by sharing and passing on.

Find out more

Would you like to support Our Community Wardrobe Oldham? Join its Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/231973375897053

Or connect with Sally on LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/sally-maher-4a0a93255

If you do not have any clothing to donate, you can make a cash donation instead via Our Community Wardrobe’s Go Fund Me page.

young child trying on some of the doantions for size

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