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Shopping: Why Re-Use is kind to people and planet

It’s kind to the planet and other people: buy from Cambridge Re-Use and you’re giving a preloved piece a new home and helping someone in need too, as manager Cara Moorey tells Velvet

Cara Moorey at Cambridge Re-use now open to the general public . Picture: Keith Heppell. (54078244)
Cara Moorey at Cambridge Re-use now open to the general public . Picture: Keith Heppell. (54078244)

Let's start at the beginning: when, how and why did Re-Use - or SOFA, as it was then - come to be?

Cambridge Re-Use was formed in 1988 as Cambridge SOFA by Richard Darlington who worked in Cambridge City Council’s Housing Department and Peter Wilson a colleague in Social Services. The charity’s aim was to help families struggling on low income by offering good quality furniture and household items at low cost.

Our aims have not changed and we continue to help hundreds of people on low income make their house a home. It is well documented that your living environment plays a crucial role in your mental wellbeing and feedback from our customers shows that we have had and continue to make a huge impact on people’s lives, For some of our members, their move into a new home with furniture they have chosen from us signifies a new beginning; a fresh start for them after a crisis.

Why did you decide to open the shop to everyone, not solely low-income households?

The coronavirus crisis caused us to close our store temporarily, though we continued to operate an emergency service to clients identified by the main agencies. With increasing costs we decided for the first time in the history of the charity to open our doors to everyone and enable the general public to shop with us too, in the hope that we could increase our sales income and continue for many years to come.

We have a two tier pricing system for members (people on low income) and non-members. To become a member, your household income needs to be under £19,500 for a single household and under £25,000 for a couple. You would simply show documents with your total household income, wage slips, benefit letters etc. and get a members’ card that lasts for one year.

It's always been about more than selling household goods, hasn't it? Re-Use has become a community.

We rely heavily on a dedicated team of volunteers. Our team spans ages and different reasons for volunteering - professionals, retired people, single mums, people looking to get back into employment, students. Cambridge Re-Use offers the opportunity for people from many different backgrounds and life experiences to come together and work as a team to deliver our service. We are a community of our own continuing to help people struggling financially; sadly as more people find themselves on low income the need for our service is greater than ever.

How can readers support?

We are lucky enough to receive plenty of kind offers of donations, so if anyone reading this wants to support us they can do so by spreading the word to everyone they know who enjoys shopping in charity shops - what we desperately need is more people coming in and shopping with us!

We are always looking for new volunteers to join our dedicated team, too. Alternatively, if you are involved in a company that has a charity partner scheme or anything similar, and the company may be able to help us with a financial donation, please get in touch .

What would you say to encourage people who've never visited Re-Use before to come along and shop?

We have everything from sofas, wardrobes, tables, chest of drawers and bedside cabinets through to bric-a-brac, books, pictures, curtains and kitchen items. For the first time in our history our doors are open to everyone - so come and have a look around!

Cambridge Re-Use is at Unit H The Paddocks, 347 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge CB1 8DH. See cambridgereuse.org.uk for more information, including shop opening hours.

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