Community clothing scheme is helping families in New Mills

Residents in New Mills who are struggling financially are being supported by a community clothing initiative which has just had a major revamp.

The New Mills Community Clothing Service was set up in 2020 during the pandemic but now two years on the project has expanded and has recently taken on a unit inside the town’s market hall.

Mark Jones, founder of the project, set up the service to help families hit by Covid and now it is serving a new purpose in the battle against the cost of living crisis.

He said: “The clothes bank was set up as a direct result of the pandemic because people were struggling.

Mark Jones of New Mills Community Clothing

"People had no money coming in but kids were still growing and clothes were still needed.

"Now as we have come out of the pandemic we have gone straight into another crisis with the rising cost of living and people are still struggling.

"So we are here to remind people we are here to help.”

This month the clothes bank has taken on the retail unit and been given a new name but the ethos is still the same.

Children's clothes are sorted by age group

Mark, from New Mills, said: “Me and the other volunteers who also set up the community pantry wanted to create the same feel for the clothing side of things.

"With the pantry people walk in grab a basket and pick what they want not what they are told to have and at the end pay a nominal fee.

"This stops it feeling like charity and helps people retain a sense of pride too and that’s what we wanted for the clothes.

"We’ve got rid of the clothes bank name and have become the New Mills Community Clothing Service.

Children's shoes at New Mills Community Clothing

"We are here for those who want to step away from fast fashion and buy clothes second hand and those who need a hand during tough times too.”

Based inside the Market Hall, the project runs an appointment only service on Mondays and Tuesdays where people can come in and pick up any items they need for themselves and family members.

The appointment only approach means people have the space and privacy to choose their own things in their own time. The first slot starts at 9am and the last one is at 3.45pm. Each slot is for 30 minutes.

Mark said: “We want to make this the most positive experience we can.

"People come in and look at the clothes on the rails and pick what they want, what they like and what their families will like and in sizes they want too.

"Also the last two years have left people with social anxiety, people don’t want to be out in the shops with crowds of other people so we have found the appointment system to be useful for helping people by giving them the time exclusively.”

Mark, who has children himself, says he knows how expensive it is to clothe youngsters, and how the changing seasons also means a complete change of clothes.

"And people just can’t afford to do that at the moment,” he said.

“We know there are charity shops across the High Peak but they took a hit too during the pandemic and have had to put their prices up and the sad thing is those high prices are too expensive now for struggling households.

"And the way we see it is, it’s better to donate clothes to us which will be going to those in need straight away rather than sitting in a charity shop which people aren’t visiting anymore.”

Talking about the cost of living, Mark says he thinks things are only going to get worse.

He said: “Speaking not just as a volunteer but as a parent, as a person with bills to pay themselves, it really is worrying how much things are going up at the minute and come October when the energy prices go up again and winter is here people are going to be in deep trouble up and down the country.”

The new clothing service has only been operating in its current form for just a few weeks but in that time has already helped dozens of families.

The unit offers a range of clothes covering all ages as well as bedding, towels, curtains and early essential items such as prams, high chairs and Moses baskets.

All items are free however they do encourage voluntary donations towards running costs, and can accept cash and card.

Mark said: “You go into this with an element of trust. You trust people are coming to you in need and not to sell things on and in the two years we have been doing this we haven’t seen anyone doing that. But I grew up in a poor household. I know that sometimes you have to sell things even if you don’t want to.”

The clothing service also supplies second hand school uniform bags and stationery and is taking referrals from schools. Anyone wanting to donate clothes should visit New Mills Youth and Community project CIC on Facebook.

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