Wed, 18 Sep 2019

A clothing scheme, which empowers women with entrepreneurship skills, suffered a major setback in Cape Town recently when a fire destroyed one of its warehouses and R15m in stock.

The Clothing Bank is now picking up the pieces and hopes South Africans will happily part with any good quality clothing they no longer need.

Since 2010, the scheme has been helping unemployed mothers around the country to set up their own trading businesses using clothing donated by South African retailers.

Chief operating officer Tracey Gilmore told News24 that what started off in a small garage in Salt River was now a two-year training programme that offered 800 women at any given time "a decent income and a living wage".

Labels are taken off the clothing, loaded onto the clothing scheme's system and priced. The women come in one day a week to shop for stock. On other days, they are in class, being coached or mentored.

To kick-start their venture, first-timers can buy stock to the value of R600 and then pay that back over five months through sales.

The goal is to "graduate" after two years with an informal small business practice qualification in hand.

The Cape Town operation grinded to a halt, however, when its warehouse and admin offices in Thornton went up in flames at the end of last month.

Gilmore said the clothing scheme's security company had phoned her at around midnight about the fire.

About 40 firefighters battled the fire from 00:30 and finally contained it at 06:20, the fire and rescue service said.

It later emerged that the fire was started unintentionally by someone who came onto the property.

"Camera footage showed a man jumping over our gate and going into our recycling hut. He used fire or a lighter as a torch and spent 40 minutes there collecting cardboard and other items," Gilmore said.

"We are deeply saddened by the fire, but we are working hard to get up and running as soon as possible to limit the impact on our traders," said Gilmore.

"People are going to continue to be left behind if we don't do something."

The operation has since moved to a warehouse down the road, at 28 Thor Circle, Thornton.

The public are welcome to drop off clothing or fabric at that address. They can also do so at selected Woolworths stores including Waterford, Paarl, Blue Route, Cavendish and Bayside.

Should someone want items to be collected, they can email info@theclothingbank.org.za for more details

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