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Ripon steps up for Wakefield clothes bank “down to its last coat”

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Ripon CoS is just a small group in a small market town, with only 2 refugee families (for now). Nevertheless, we’ve always tried to support other areas in Yorkshire where there are pockets of need, especially by collecting quality used clothing for asylum-seeker centres in Hull and Wakefield.

But like everywhere else, COVID meant that virtually every activity had ground to a halt. However, when we heard that Wakefield District of Sanctuary’s clothing bank was down to its last coat, we felt we had to restart our collection, even if only temporarily.

Coping with COVID

There were hurdles to deal with, of course. Their unstaffed clothing drop-off point in a local church was no longer available. Safety was paramount. Fewer people could be involved.

A careful process was put in place, involving packing and quarantining clothing, along with a risk assessment designed to protect donors, ‘middlemen’ and the eventual recipients. Lots of calls for help went out to supporters and schools via email, social posts and personal contact. And the donations began to pour in.

Collecting items old and new

Those who couldn’t give clothes often offered cash. Almost £1,300 was donated in person or via JustGiving, which was used to buy new items like coats, underwear, toiletries and stationery – all on Wakefield’s “wanted” list.

Just a fortnight after launching the campaign, Ripon Cos stuffed the first 2 cars to the gills with winter clothing, 100 gorgeous hand-made toys, and boxes of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, hand cream and more. And there are dozens and dozens more bin-liners full of clothes still in quarantine, waiting to be taken to Wakefield in further trips, along with 25 stress-busting mindfulness kits.

Although this campaign will need to end in a few weeks, it’s become clear that it could be switched on again at any time.

Unexpected surprises

For us, it was a big relief to be active again. We’ve been so happy to engage with our supporters – who have been incredible – and Wakefield DoS again. To our surprise, since we thought they’d be too disrupted by COVID, three schools are very keen to be involved.

It just goes to show that there’s a real appetite to help sanctuary-seekers.