Words by Rachael Brazier / Pics by Laura Grigg & The Pioneer Group
A staggering 276 families have been spared the cost of school uniforms, thanks to an initiative set up by Compass Support‘s Parent Champions in Castle Vale.
The school uniform clothing bank was opened at The Sanctuary on Tangmere Drive in mid-July, collecting and distributing second-hand items before the start of the new academic year. All services and items are free of charge.
Molly Miles, Volunteer Coordinator from Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, who works with Parent Champions in Castle Vale, says:
“I am so proud of Jodi (Dunstan), Jayne (Herbert), Jess (Llewellyn) and Lisa (Pountney) who are helping children and families far and wide. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to support children and families with essential school uniforms in 2021.
“The project was planned back in February and was on hold till early July when lockdown eased. It’s a brilliant initiative in terms of both saving money for struggling families, especially those with multiple children, and for sustainability reasons as much of the uniform is in perfectly good condition.”
To help raise awareness of the project and let people know where they can donate unwanted school uniforms, the Parent Champions have set up a Facebook page and are planning to distribute leaflets about their service.
Via the popular social media platform, local families can directly ask for specific uniform requests – which can then be collected by appointment from The Sanctuary community centre in Castle Vale.
Once uniforms and school items have been donated at The Sanctuary they are put into ‘quarantine’, washed, dried, and ironed ready for their new owner. When picking up items, parents and carers will be met by a volunteer – all socially distanced and abiding by government regulations.
Uniforms are available for local schools, including: Chivenor, St Gerards, Topcliffe, Pegasus, and Greenwood Academy. However, families affected by the coronavirus pandemic are donating and collecting from further afield – for example Smith’s Wood Academy in Solihull – as some uniforms come as standard issue.
Boys trousers have been the most donated item, as many teenagers grow out of clothes quickly. Another popular item on the wish list are PE kits – including t-shirts, pumps, and shorts.
And whilst the cost of school uniforms can run into hundreds of pounds per pupil, the Parent Champions initiative aims to reduce some of that financial burden for local residents.
Jodi Dunstan, one of Compass Support‘s Parent Champions, helps local families with a range of information and advice about activities and services in the local area – alongside the school uniform initiative.
As a result of her hard work at the uniform clothing bank, especially with the added fears and pressures around COVID-19, Jodi Dunstan was nominated for and won a local Facebook competition celebrating community endeavours.
Jodi says: “We are receiving requests from people of all different backgrounds, and we’re so happy to give back to the community. We had one family that needed to kit out a family of seven children – can you imagine the cost?”
“We’ll carry on as long as we can as we understand the hardships many families are currently facing. Between us volunteers we have 13 school-aged children of our own. We love being able to help, and just the relief on the parents/carers faces and the joy that uniform that fits brings is phenomenal.”
Any donated items that are not suitable for use are being sent for ‘ragging’ – with any funds generated ploughed back into running the uniform clothing bank initiative.
To find out more about Compass Support’s Parent Champions uniform clothing bank, including information on donating or collecting uniforms, please call (0121) 748 8111
You can also ask to join the private Facebook group, click here or on the hyperlinks in this article.
For more on Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, visit www.compass-support.org.uk