It was during a winter craft session that Youth Opportunities Coordinator, Michelle Wright noticed some of the kids attending weren’t wearing coats.
“I was working with primary school children and it was really cold,” Michelle says. “The amount of kids that were being dropped off but had no coats was really surprising, so I went home and asked my daughter if I could give some of her old coats away.”
That was the start of Coats for Kids and what began as a few donations, has now snowballed into hundreds of coats and shoes for children who need them.
Michelle teamed up with Julie Blears from the Finance Inclusion team at One Manchester to get the operation underway. Julie has previous experience in supporting tenants with things they may need and in 2009 she set up Beds for Kids; a scheme which provided children with mattresses, pillows and items for a good night’s sleep.
To get the ball rolling, the pair first asked One Manchester colleagues to pass on any unwanted children’s coats, but this quickly snowballed into donations coming in from tenants, and then the wider Greater Manchester community.
Last year, Michell and Julie collected more than 150 coats and many of pairs of shoes.
“We had a phenomenal response,” Michelle says. “People were bringing in coats left, right and centre, we thought the response was amazing and we gave them to four schools who were just as ecstatic.”
Michelle and Julie are mindful of the subtlety needed when handing out coats and careful to pass them on to primary school staff to hand out discretely children.
“There's a liaison teacher in the schools who works with an array of different children, so they could hand the coats over, there was no embarrassment,” says Michelle.
Julie Jackson, Pastoral Manager at St Mary's Primary School Moss Side, was full of praise for the team.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you for supporting our school, children and parents with the coats you have provided. These have been greatly received at a time when they were much needed and the families were not financially capable to provide them,” she said.
The work hasn’t stopped, Michelle regularly spends evenings and weekends driving across Manchester to collect coats and shoes, setting up makeshift production lines with colleagues to check, wash, pack and hand deliver them to primary schools across the area.
If you’re looking for financial advice, please visit: www.onemanchester.co.uk/support-opportunities/money-benefits-advice
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