In the November of 2010, Newcastle’s Crisis Skylight Centre found themselves perilously short of warm winter clothing to give out. A few months later, the Winter Coat Amnesty, which asks people from across the North East to give their old or unwanted coats a new home, was born.
In the years since, the campaign has grown to include the help and cooperation of dozens of local businesses which, along with the unprecedented generosity of the general public, has transformed the humble idea into an important annual event for those dedicated to helping the region’s homeless.
Organised by longtime Crisis volunteers Andy Brown and Claire Paczko, the appeal has now garnered many thousands of coats since its inception, and last year shops, bars and cafes from across the entire North East acted as dropping off stations for a small army of volunteers.
“Every year this campaign and the generosity of local people never ceases to amaze us” Claire told us. “We’re looking for people to donate their clean, good quality unwanted winter clothing. Items such as coats, shirts, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, tracksuits, jeans, hats scarves, gloves and good quality footwear. We are also seeking new underwear in sealed packaging and socks”.
Reliant entirely on volunteers giving up their time as much as their garments, the Winter Coat Amnesty still has areas of the region it’s hoping to expand into. With plans still being cemented for this year’s appeal, the organisers are keen to hear from any businesses in Sunderland who could act as donation stations, having never had one based in the city previously.
“The best advice for people wishing to donate unwanted winter clothing is to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, as we regularly post details of donation stations and items we are short of. People can also get involved with Crisis directly as they are looking for volunteers to help sift through the clothing and prepare the centre before Christmas – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org“
The Winter Coats Amnesty is, of course, only a small part of the work Crisis does all year round, which creates its own problems. As Claire explains; “We only run this campaign at Christmas as opposed to all year round because by doing so perpetuates homelessness and does nothing to break that cycle. By giving out sleeping bags, clothing and personal care items all year round does not promote self sufficiency. We want to encourage people to use the services of organisations like Crisis, who are accredited education, training and employment centres and offer practical and creative workshops in a supportive and inspiring environment together with formal learning opportunities that lead to qualifications and finding work. We are trying to solve a problem, not sustain one”.
So, if you’re rooting through your winter wardrobe any time soon and find yourself with a few items that won’t get the attention they used to this year, the Winter Coat Amnesty have a much better use for them than simply collecting dust. Plus it’ll give enough extra room to justify the festive purchases you’ll no doubt be making in the coming months.