PARENTS and families struggling to afford school uniforms ahead of the new term can still get help from a Washington community organisation.
Building Blocks Day Centre in Concord is reminding residents they can pick up items free of charge or for a small donation at its Uniform Boutique before the kids go back to school.
The community hub, which opened its doors in 2019 and hosts various community groups, activities and help groups along with a popular coffee shop, first launched its uniform scheme three years ago.
“We were doing a lot of things with the community and we realised school uniforms were a massive problem for people who were genuinely struggling with the cost of it,” explained Building Blocks owner and founder, Lee Nicholson.
“We decided to do a uniform drive in our community room and we got loads of donations from people. It went really well, after about two weeks we’d had more than 1000 pieces donated and in that first year we helped about 150 families.
“After that, we went to a couple of funding schemes and asked for some funding to create something like a shop, the idea was to get rid of the stigma of using pre-loved clothes and we felt making it more like a shop setting would ease that.”
Three years on, the uniform boutique is going from strength to strength and with the cost of living situation currently at the forefront of most people’s minds, it’s proving to be more popular – and vital – than ever.
It offers everything uniform related from blazers and school jumpers to shoes and sports kits for primary and secondary schools across Washington.
And now, with just days to go until the schools head back for the new year, Lee is urging anyone who may be struggling to drop in for help.
“The schools go back next week so we want to remind people we are here with lots of stock and it’s here for anybody who needs it,” said Lee. “We’ll be open on Monday as well, because some schools aren’t back until Tuesday or Wednesday.
“I want people to know they can come down, see what we have and then take what they need. If they want, they can make donations – I don’t know, 20p, 40p, 50p – that’s not what it’s about, it’s about getting children clothed and ready to go back to school.”
Lee is also keen to emphasise that the boutique is open to everyone and anyone that needs it, regardless of personal circumstances.
“This is for everyone. Things are tough for a lot of people at the moment and it’s not just for those very hard up, it’s to stop people getting into that situation.
“Nobody is going to be judged or asked questions, we simply want people to come in who need it, it’s that simple.”
All uniform items have been donated by members of the public and Lee and the team are always keen to receive items that have been outgrown to add to the selection.
“We do need more donations – we get a lot but the demand is growing. I wont put anything in the shop that I wouldn’t put on my own kids so it is vetted to quite a high standard and things that aren’t up to the job go into the recycling.
“We’re always looking for pre-loved uniforms and also we’d love some further volunteers to help out with things like sorting the donations and helping without our many other community things, so anyone who may have a few hours to spend, we’d love to hear from.”
The uniform boutique is available at Building Blocks Day Centre in Concord bus station Monday-Friday 9.30-3pm, where people can pop in.
Anyone who can offer a few hours of their time to help work through the donations is urged to contact the centre, either by dropping in or contacting the team via the Facebook pag