The Wokingham Paper

Hurst charity expands with move into new Winnersh offices

The Cowshed
The Cowshed has been granted a share of the funding.

TWO YEARS after its establishment, a Hurst charity is expanding its premises.

The Cowshed, which provides good quality, clean, ironed clothes and other essentials free to those in need, has seen a surge in demand.

By Wednesday, July 1 — 100 days into lockdown — the charity had supported 1,073 adults and children during the pandemic.

This included craft packs, clothes, toiletries, underwear, bedding, curtains, food hampers from Hillsong Church and other essential items.

Although the charity has only been fully operational since mid-February last year, volunteers said they are growing fast, receiving increasing numbers of referrals each week.

These come from health visitors, social services, foodbanks, schools, refuges, churches, GP surgeries and a number of other local charities.

The Cowshed
The new home for The Cowshed

After their referral, clients are then invited to The Cowshed to select and try on the clothes.

Now, they are expanding with a second location, which will be used as a distribution centre for donations.

General manager, Sally Russell said: “We’ve been open right the way through the pandemic — we didn’t want to close when people were in crisis.

“The demand for what we do has gone up threefold, and we had a reduced number of volunteers as people were shielding, elderly or looking after young children.

“We’re still as busy, but now we’ve got more volunteers back, which means we can expand into our new facility and keep maintaining social distancing.”

Sally Russell
Sally Russell from The Cowshed

The depot is on King Street Lane, Winnersh opposite Sainsbury’s and is now accepting donations from Monday to Friday, 10am until 4pm.

And volunteers got the distribution centre ready to use quickly.

“We got the keys on Tuesday last week, and spent the weekend getting it ready,” added Mrs Russell. “We’ve got a rolling licence, and will stay here until a company wants the space.

“We’re just really grateful that we’re able to help those who need us. And we couldn’t have done it without all the organisations supporting us.

“Wokingham Citizens Advice, Wellington School and Hillsong Church have all helped us greatly, and we’ve had lots of grants.”

The charity also hopes to restart a socially distanced craft group on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am until 3pm.

This group was created to close the loop on fast fashion waste.

“Upstairs is our new craft centre, where we have 60 crafting volunteers recycling the fabrics to make referral bags,” said Mrs Russell. “We don’t put anything into landfill at all.”

Any slightly damaged clothes or bedding is repurposed by the community arts and crafts group into items to sell, and tote bags. Remaining fabric is collected by a recycling company.

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