Kids Love Clothes

"So much more than 'just' clothes"

Article published in Konect, April 2017

We think of the essentials of life as basic food, clothing, shelter. But beyond mere survival there are intangibles that are absolutely essential for a healthy life – dignity, self-respect, confidence. For local charity Kids Love Clothes, these intangibles are just as important as the “basics” they provide...

As the name suggests, Kids Love Clothes provides for children in the Lothians and Edinburgh whose families are struggling to clothe them. “But we do not just shove some second-hand clothes in a bag!” says charity founder Fiona Shapcott. I met Fi along with volunteer Julie Diver at their storage unit in Ratho. As we chat it’s clear that this is absolutely about respecting the people who will be receiving the clothes. Donations of quality second-hand or new clothes are quality-checked, ironed and folded, wrapped in tissue paper and beautifully presented in a Kids Love Clothes bag. Only clothes in excellent condition are passed on.

“Over the years, we’ve realised that our service has a much higher impact than just clothing the children,” explains Fi. One story illustrates the point beautifully - the mother who, once she had the Kids Love Clothes outfits, had the confidence to start taking her son to toddler group. She had been too ashamed of not having any clothes for him previously. “So there is a huge value multiplier of the effect – the mother gained some confidence and dignity; the child had the opportunity to socialise...the repercussions are massive.” The bags, so beautifully presented, give dignity and freedom as well as “just” clothes. They are delivered to the recipients’ home, like a lovely gift from friends.

The storage unit at Ratho is full of clothes, but they always need more to meet demand. “Look at this gorgeous party dress,” says Julie. “We include party clothes and dress-ups when possible too, clothes that make it possible for kids to socialise without stigma and to be pleased with the way they look.” Referrals are via Social Workers or Health Visitors, and demand has soared in the past year. 882 children were clothed in the Lothians in 2016 – an 88% increase on the previous year.

Kids Love Clothes is entirely volunteer-run, with volunteers from West Lothian and Edinburgh collecting, sorting, ironing, delivering and creating a great volunteer camaraderie; while I was there for this article the owner of the storage facility turned up with a freshly-baked cake for the volunteers! There is clearly a fantastic atmosphere. “We know we’re making a huge difference to people’s lives. It’s hard work, but there’s a massive need right here in our own local communities.” The Kids Love Clothes ironing ladies of Kirknewton get a special mention for riding to the rescue regularly with big piles of ironing!

The stories of the families who receive the clothes are many and varied: victims of domestic violence who have fled with their kids with just the clothes on their backs; loss of job and/or benefits which throw a family temporarily into hardship; refugees and immigrants. For some situations a large holdall for the clothes is provided too for families who are likely to need to move on from one temporary accommodation to another.

A Kids Love Clothes bag contains a wardrobe’s worth of seasonally appropriate clothes. A few toys and books are usually included with each bag. Items that are not quite good enough for the gift bags are passed on to other organisations; nothing is wasted.

Clothing for a child in need seems like an obvious service, but there are no other charities doing this. The Edinburgh Clothing Store does great work although it operates more like a food bank rather than the “beautifully packaged gift from friends” model that Kids Love Clothes strives to achieve.

See http://www.kidsloveclothes.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/KidsLoveClothes for more information, to get in touch and for drop-off locations

Donations of clothes are always needed! Kids grow so fast that they often grow out of their clothes before they wear them out! Please wash and save any good condition second hand clothes for ages newborn to 10 years. New clothes are welcome too. There are various drop-off points around the Lothians, please contact us for details.

Organise collections: if you can organise clothing collections at your work, school, fitness classes or social clubs we’d love to hear from you!

Volunteers: we need people to join our team for sorting, checking and ironing clothes. Become part of the Kids Love Clothes community!

Fundraising: we also need good old-fashioned fundraising to cover our overheads such as the storage facility rent and keeping the van on the road.