Local charities creatively reuse donated Fire Service kit

Steph Archbold and Gillian Pickles of Love, Amelia are pictured with Mark Stewart, Kyle Shaw and Andrew Lane of TWFRS outside of the charities offices holding examples of the donated waterproof clothing.

Our firefighters have been praised for re-supplying kit provided in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks to local good causes.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has been thanked by charities across the North East for donating hundreds of ‘re-robing kits’.

We had originally received the kits in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as they were designed to assist crews in the aftermath of a chemical attack.

The contents of the kits would be used by firefighters or members of the public whose items of clothing may have been contaminated.

They would then replace their attire with clothing that includes a poncho, a pair of socks, rubber shoes and sanitary products.

But the kits are no longer fit for purpose and so last year TWFRS appealed for charities who could make good use of the clothing and equipment to come forward.

And now they have revealed more than 20 charities have taken up the offer including those combatting homelessness, youth groups and an organisation offering support to new mothers and families experiencing poverty and hardship.

“We have been overwhelmed by the amazing response we’ve received from local charities looking to come up with wonderfully creative ways to reuse our re-robing kits,” said Andrew Lane, Watch Manager, Resilience Policy and Planning for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

Andrew added: “Once we were given the green light and told the kits were surplus to requirements the intention was always to reintroduce the materials back into the community, in a meaningful and constructive manner that in turn meant they were saved from landfill.

“They are still being used for their original purpose to clothe people, and we were moved by some of the suggestions made by local charities.  It was heart-warming to know that some of the items could bring a little additional comfort to the North East’s rough sleepers with waterproof clothing through to young people and adults with learning disabilities who are using the kits for outward bounds courses.”

One of the charities to come forward for a kit donation was Wearside-based Love, Amelia – a children’s charity offering support to families experiencing poverty and hardship across Sunderland and South Tyneside.

The inspiration behind the charity is Amelia, who was born in Sunderland Hospital in January 2018 and sadly passed away minutes after her birth. Her parents, Phill and Steph, founded the charity in memory of their daughter with the hope of giving all children the best start in life.

In 2021 alone the charity helped 2,500 young children in the region with essential items including clothing, early year’s household equipment and nappies.

Love Amelia took 60 junior re-robing kits and supplied them to local community groups who specialise in providing young people with access to outdoor physical activities.

They also took over 300 sanitary towel products and added them to ‘Labour Bags’ that are given to new mams in Tyne and Wear-based hospitals.  The towels are also given to young women who are unable to afford the essential personal hygiene products.

Steph Archbold, Amelia’s Mum, Founder and Charity Manager for Love, Amelia, said:

“We were so excited when we heard about the fire service kit donations as we had a number of different ideas about how they could be best used to help people in our local community.

“The main use we found for the kits was through a local group who provide important outdoor experiences for young vulnerable and disadvantaged children on Wearside and South Tyneside.

“The waterproof jacket, trousers and shoes can literally open up a whole new world for someone who doesn’t usually engage with outdoor pursuits as they are worried about getting their clothes dirty and wet.  It means that the young people can enjoy the fresh air, make new friends and ultimately allows kids to be kids.

“It’s also a great idea as it stops the items being thrown away and relieves the overall environmental impacts it could cause.”

The groups from across the region to benefit from the 925 re-robing kits included local charities associated with – homelessness; sea cadets; angling; outward bounds; drumming; gardening; carers and families groups; two church community projects; The Prince’s Trust; The Scouts; and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust.