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Cast-Offs Downturn Hits Social Service

Donated any old clothes to charity recently? The odds are against it according to social service agency Baptist Action whose Auckland City Mission is largely funded by selling recycled clothing in its eight opportunity shops.

"We haven’t been so low on stock for ages," says Baptist City Mission manager Gary Corbett. "People are definitely holding on to things. At the moment some people must want to get that extra bit of wear out of items before replacing them."

Mr Corbett said that mild winters didn’t help either. "People tend not to replace winter clothing if the temperatures remain unseasonably high. So when retailers have it tough, so do we at the opposite end of the chain.

"There’s also been a rise in ‘nearly new’ boutiques where people sell their ‘old’ clothes to fund new fashions. All these things have a knock-on effect."

Clothing sales through its ‘opp’ shops account for about $500,000 of the City Mission’s $800,000 budget. The money covers budgeting services for families and individuals, food parcels to 150 people a week and advocacy services for low-income families. It also supports the Merivale Women’s Refuge, the Airedale St night shelter and K’ Road’s Urban Mission Project.

Mr Corbett said he’d considered importing used clothing from the United States where a decade of rising prosperity has resulted in a glut of cast-off clothing.

According to a church warehouse in New York which receives over two million kg of clothes a year and ‘exports’ container loads to poor Middle East countries: "No-one in the United States need ever go without being properly dressed."

The huge surplus in the U.S. exists to the point where one item in five is discarded by social agencies and special bins are kept aside for articles which haven’t been worn and still carry their price tags.

Says Gary Corbett: "It certainly wasn’t an area of trade covered by APEC!"

Unfortunately, costs in getting the surplus clothing to New Zealand would probably rule out the idea.

If you are able to donate some clothing, deliver it to Baptist Action City Mission, 8 Mt Eden Road or phone 377 3183.

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