ROBIN Hood volunteers have created a ‘community wardrobe’ where they wash, repair and sort old items to send to charity shops and charities.

Christopher Gowers and his neighbours in Wolvercote set up Finding Good Homes for Things in April during the height of lockdown to help distribute household items, clothing and footwear to those in need.

The group aim to ‘help charities get the right stock through research, cleaning and sorting’ so they can spend their time on ‘more important things’. 

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Mr Gowers offered to store a few things at his house, and has ended up filling his home with secondhand clothes and other donations.

He said: “I am fortunate enough to have a home, a quite large home, and so the ground floor became our community laundry site.

“This is how we came up with the concept of a ‘community wardrobe’.

“You get food banks and community larders that distribute food, so I coined the phrase community wardrobe: it is like a food shelter but for clothes - it provides the essentials."

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The group started their project when they helped out with two ‘emergency house clearances’ in Wolvercote, then realised they could sort the items and put them to good use.

Mr Gowers is also the coordinator of Oxfordshire Network Access Hubs (OXNAV) which provides transport around Oxfordshire, so when lockdown put a temporary halt on that group's activities he was able to use its minibuses to transport the charity shop donations around the county.

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The buses became ‘sheds on wheels’ as Mr Gowers likes to call them.

Although the pandemic has brought misery to so many, the Wolvercote group say they their initiative 'would not have happened if not for lockdown’.

They particularly wanted to help the homeless.

Mr Gowers said: "Of course lockdown was the plight of the homeless.

“They were provided with accommodation, which was one good thing that came out of lockdown, but we wanted to do more to help.

“So, we divided our focus between helping homelessness, and working with charities, supplying them if you like.”

Mr Gowers says the ‘secret’ to the mission is ‘researching what charities need’.

He added: “We try to avoid just dumping items at charity shops and try to negotiate directly with them because they vary considerably of course depending on the neighbourhood.

“Charity shops know their clients; how to meet their needs.”

The group works with Oxford Homeless Movement and other charities including the Gatehouse and First Steps.

Their main ambition is to tackle the ‘problem of people regarding charity shops as dumps.’

Mr Gowers said: “At all costs we must stop dumping plastic bags on the doorsteps of shops.

"Elderly people need help, families are very busy, so us retired folk - well - it’s the perfect opportunity to keep us going!”