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You are Here: Home News City’s Clothes Bank moves to Bitterne Park
24 September 2017
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City’s Clothes Bank moves to Bitterne Park PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 31 August 2017 12:07

clothes rail 460Southampton’s Clothes Bank, which provides donated clothing to those in need, has moved its base from St Mary’s to Bitterne Park.

 

Whereas the city’s food banks run on different days of the week at various Southampton venues, the Clothes Bank serves the whole of the city to maximise stock and choice for clients who could not otherwise afford clothing.

sign

At its new home in the Church of the Ascension in Bitterne Park it now opens once a week – on Wednesdays from 10am-3pm.

It’s run by Christian charity Southampton City Mission, which also organises food banks, known as Basics Banks, around the city, including at The Old Chemist in Bitterne Park Triangle – also on Wednesdays.

'We set it out like a shop'

The Clothes Bank receives donations mainly from churches around the Southampton area, but also from individuals; in fact on the day we visited there had been several ‘walk-in’ donations.

A team of volunteers then sifts through incoming bags of clothes and sorts everything onto rails for display.

liz

“We set it out like a shop,” said Liz, left, the clothes bank’s supervisor. “It’s not like a food bank where you’re given the goods. Here people come and choose what they want. That’s the premise of what we do.”

“You have to have a voucher, the same as you do for food, which [clients] get from local agencies, like Two Saints, doctors – any of the local agencies. There are about 150 local agencies which can hand out vouchers.”

The clothes bank was previously based in the centre of town in Central Hall, St Mary’s, where new free school Hope Community is now set to open in September 2017 while its permanent site is being developed.

Since mid-June the Clothes Bank has occupied the large Grace Hall in the Church of the Ascension on opening days, and also uses another area for storage. The church has donated both spaces.

Volunteers come from around the city, and Liz, who’s been volunteer supervisor for around four years, said more people are always welcome to lend a hand.

volunteers group
Volunteers L to R: Edna, Margaret and Dave

Edna, a volunteer on clothes sorting duties, said she’d been volunteering for over seven years, while fellow sorter Margaret said she’d racked up a sixteen-year record. She said that to her, it’s a “way of serving the Lord in a way I can. It’s a privilege to do this.”

grace hall layout

But while the fact that it’s a Christian mission is the draw for many, according to Liz not everyone who volunteers follows the faith.

The team is currently serving between 30 and 50 clients a week (that’s somewhere in the region of perhaps 1500 – 2500 people a year), although it varies and has been fairly quiet over the summer, with a two-week closure to make way for an art exhibition during August.

“We can have some quiet weeks when we’ll only have 20 clients, and then another week over 50, because we’re only open on the one day.”

So who are all these clients?

crates of clothes

“First of all, with the change in benefits, that’s affected a lot of people… We also have people who have housing disasters – fires, burst pipes, stuff like that, so it’s a real variety of people.”

• If you’re interested in volunteering with City Mission, you can go along during the Clothes Bank’s opening hours to find out more, or make contact via their website. If you want to donate clothing, or food for the Basics Banks, you can see what’s most needed and find out more here.

Previously: Video: Behind the scenes look at Southampton’s food banks 

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