May
30
Author
Richard Wilson
Clothed with dignity

Jubilee Church in Solihull runs the Children's Storehouse. Not yet two years old, the work is already well established, providing good quality second-hand clothing and other essentials for babies and children to families in need.

God's heart of compassion is contained in the strapline, "Clothed with dignity". But behind every strapline on a leaflet or a website there is always a deeper story. The Children's Storehouse was born out of a desire to put faith into action, but as the founder Alison Davey puts it: 

"As a church we resisted the temptation to get different ‘projects up and running’ and instead we waited for the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit… it’s not about projects but rather partnering with the Holy Spirit and following His lead."

Meeting Local Needs

The idea for the Solihull work was provoked by hearing of a similar work in another part of the country. But what was the specific local need? In Alison's words,

"We conducted 12-18 months of research to see if it was a perceived need in our local community and beyond. We spoke to local council teams including the police, social services and other charitable groups and food banks. All of them came back with the resounding answer of “Yes, absolutely there is a need!”

“There are ‘baby banks’ in Birmingham who offer clothing and equipment to families with children up to the age of 2, but only one other charity in Birmingham (that I am aware of) that offers clothing beyond that. We are based in Solihull but are central and willing to meet the needs of neighbouring communities on our doorstep including Birmingham and we can offer clothing for children up to the age of 18."

The work is fully part of Jubilee Church’s vision, but practically the Storehouse works with local agencies who refer the families finding themselves in difficult circumstances. Initially working with three or four main external agencies, including the police and the CAB, the Storehouse now accepts referrals from 40 agencies with the team particularly excited about their links with 12 local schools. The families served include those affected by domestic violence, homelessness and financial hardship, as well as refugees or asylum seeker families. The Storehouse now has capacity to provide for up to 500 children a year, last year meeting the needs of some 400 children.

Dignity

Behind these bare statistics is a real heart for God's justice and compassion and that motto, "Clothed with dignity", guides every action; from the way clothes are sorted, to how communications are undertaken and to liaising with and training the referral agencies. 

The Storehouse opens one day a week and each family is given an appointment so that there is adequate time for them to choose appropriate clothes and other items. Alison explains the heart of the team:

We wanted to organise the whole set-up around what it would be like for the families coming in. It is important to us that the families don’t feel judged for going through a hard time but that they feel valued and are made to feel welcome and listened to. On our first day of opening when we had our first family through the door – a family of 7 children – they came in with only the clothes on their backs. Our hearts were broken with compassion for them and so the Storehouse began!”

The work is still developing and the team is learning and adjusting. An early review of the work found that many families had a particular need for bedding. Shortly after a decision was made to address that need a local hotel donated 1200 brand-new bedsheets; just one example of the favour God has given the Storehouse in their local area.

The benefit of the work can be summed up in this testimony from one of the referral agencies,

Just to feedback from yesterday with L to say how overjoyed and overwhelmed she was with the clothing and toys she received, she was particularly touched by the kindness and compassion she was shown by the team. For the clients we support, many of whom have been through such difficult experiences and have little support, these positive experiences of genuinely caring people have a lasting impact and give them a renewed sense of hope and belief. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SELFLESSNESS!”


Find out more on their website, and follow the Children's Storehouse on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.