We’ve had a little break, so I apologise for the late nature of this week’s blog entry.Do you know we have a wonderful clothing store? I’m not sure we’ve told you about it. Everything in it has been donated by a number of faithful donors. It is wonderfully sorted by Hilary, a willing volunteer, who has organized it so we can hopefully find what we need for clients quickly and efficiently, see pics.

clothing-store-2009-002-blogWe ask for good quality clothing that must be washable. I have a principle I hold tightly to. Clothing stores can generate a culture of clothing being seen as a disposable commodity that just gets thrown away. We believe firmly at Ben’s that, although we live in a“Mc Donald’s” society where everything is fast service and disposable, clothing is not. One unfortunately needs to take responsibility for ones own clothing which will involve looking after them and the need to wash them. Lots of clients don’t want that responsibility, they just want to use clothes from our clothing store and throw the clothes they are wearing away. That, I can assure you, doesn’t happen here. We have access to a washing machine so all clothing can be washed and only a tiny percentage, which are soiled etc, ever get thrown away.

Back to our clothing donors. The “Outreach Group” of Our Lady of Beachief & St. Thomas of Canterbury, has collected, as part of their Advent and Lent services, brand new underwear and socks for Ben’s Centre. This has been a wonderful gift to us and to clients it has meant that we don’t have to give people secondhand underwear and I can’t tell you how many smiles lighten up depressed faces when they realise we have given them a new pair of underwear.

Then we have Besom, who has provided lots of good quality clothing, we especially have asked them for coats, a necessity in winter and always in short supply, and small ladies clothing. They faithfully come 2 – 3 times a year with provisions for our clothing store – always perfect in their timing. They have a website of their own which you can visit, www.besom.com

Now, Barbara faithfully looks out for clothing for us when she is busy with her other charitable endeavours. She is the sort of person you can pass on a message to, like” URGENT WE NEED BELTS” and 2 – 3 weeks later Barbara has collected lots of belts which get passed on to Ben’s, a real gem, everyone should have a Barbara.

clothing-store-2009-001-blogThen we have a number of faces, who’s mostly all remain nameless, who come to the door of Ben’s, knock and offer us bags of clothing. It’s amazing how often they are answers to prayers and they deliver, with their black bags of clothes, items we are desperate for.

All these groups and people work tirelessly behind the scenes to help provide us with our amazing store, it’s full of clothing that we can call upon to really help people in their lives.   clothing-store-2009-004-blog

An example of how the clothing store works best is from last week. A client had been rough sleeping for over 3 – 4 weeks, he desperately wanted a wash, he took soap and deodorant into the loos and had a strip wash, then he changed his clothing from top to bottom, with clothes from the clothing store, jeans, underwear and two new coats to keep the cold out. He then decided that he was going to need a shave, he had begun to feel so much better about himself once he was in clean clothes, but he had over a month’s growth – we have some hair clippers and so we decided to help make his job easier and shaved off his beard. Later he complained his feet needed some help so off we popped and brought from upstairs our foot spa, there he was sat, beard gone, dressed in lovely clean clothes, feet in a warm foot spa with gentle bubbles bubbling around his feet. He looked, but more importantly felt, a million dollars.