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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Surplus stock charity helps 59,000 families in need

Pauline Buchan

Twelve years ago The Cottage Family Centre launched a Christmas appeal to help 100 children in need in Fife.

They supplied food, clothing and a bag of toys to families around Kirkcaldy but quickly realised the community needed help all year round.

Now, through its Big Hoose Fife project, it is supporting 59,000 families around Scotland.

It distributes surplus goods – like bedding, nappies, warm clothes and household goods – donated by businesses including Amazon, PepsiCo, Morrisons and Co-op.

More than 500 charities are referring people to the project for support.

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Strategic director Pauline Buchan, who joined the charity’s Christmas appeal project after growing up in poverty herself, now heads up the Big Hoose Fife scheme.

“We visit family homes and we have seen a huge decline year after year in terms of living standards,” she told BBC Scotland.

“There’s no money to repair or replace or renew products.

“By having the two projects together, we are trying to make sure that people’s lives matter – that they change from not just existing but actually feel like they’re living.

“When you’re living in that level of deprivation, it must be very difficult to see any positive or hope in terms of what the future is going to look like for you.

“Projects like this are absolutely crucial.”

When the Big Hoose project was launched last year, driven by Gordon Brown, the former prime minister and local MP, it was expected to support 15,000 families. That number has now reached 59,000.

Scott Inglis

Fishers Laundry is one of the local businesses involved in the project and has donated 8,000 items including bedding and towels.

Its commercial director, Scott Inglis, said it was the right thing to do.

“We have products that we can give that make a difference to people in need,” he said.

“This is a never-ending process to enable these goods to go out,” he added. “The need is being driven by families out there living in conditions that need improved.

“Everyone should help – if you can do a little, then that will add up to a bigger amount.

“We are delighted to be involved in this, so much so that we’re trying to convince other people nationally to get involved.”

Lesley Allan

Lesley Allan, 40 and from Fife, is a single mother of two young children who has benefitted from the charity’s support.

Her family received toys and clothing donated by Amazon last Christmas, and more recently a faulty cooker was replaced at no cost.

“I can’t afford to repair the cooker if it breaks,” she said.

“It’s a really good thing to do, I felt very grateful for getting this. If I didn’t, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

She added: “I didn’t feel right asking for help and not being able to get it myself.

“I’m just glad the Cottage is there and supporting me and my kids and supporting other people as well.”

Pauline Buchan, John Boumphrey and Gordon Brown at the Amazon warehouse in Lochgelly

Amazon press

The project is set to expand to the north of England in the new year.

Mr Brown, who represented Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath as an MP until 2015, is the centre’s patron and suggested asking Amazon – which has a base in Dunfermline – about donating surplus goods.

He told BBC Scotland he hopes the concept will eventually help people across the UK.

“If companies have got surplus goods and we know who can benefit from them, then we’re meeting unmet needs by using unused resources,” he added.

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