Community Service workers help create cool clothes for kids in need

An inspirational program which transforms uniforms once worn by police officers and other public safety agencies into cool clothes for kids is getting a helping hand from offenders on community service orders on Brisbane’s north side.

The Sew Many Second Chances team of 21 women and seven men this year teamed up with Uniforms 4 Kids (U4K), after previously using its talents to repurpose old clothes into useful items such as shoulder bags and toys.

The team delivered their first consignment of clothing to the Vulnerable Persons Unit at the Stafford Police Station.

Community Corrections Brisbane Regional Manager Nicole Duke said the partnership had resulted in positive outcomes for all concerned.

“It’s an especially helpful program for the children who receive these clothes,” Ms Duke said.

“Some of them have come from very vulnerable situations and being given something that is just for them, something that is made with a lot of thought and care, something that is also cool and different in a good way, you can’t put a price on it.

“At the same time, this sewing project has had a number of great outcomes for our workers who may have been exposed to domestic violence.

“It provides them with new skills in a positive safe environment, it gives them a sense of purpose and achievement, a happy space to meet, work and develop friendships and an opportunity to reconnect with the community in a very meaningful way and to learn skills necessary to increase their chance of employment,” Ms Duke said.

“As international research suggests, this in turn reduces recidivism and helps to keep the community safe, while reducing the financial impact to the community.”

Ms Duke pointed to the personal experience of one of the participants, “Patricia”, as an example of the success of the program.

“Patricia joined our community service group with 80 hours to perform. As soon as she was introduced to the re-purposing of service uniforms she was hooked. Patricia is a talented and competent sewer, able to train other workers who join the project,” Ms Duke said.

“After completing her 80 hours of community service, Patricia signed on to be our site supervisor and mentors our new workers.”

U4K was founded in Cooroy, Queensland, by Yvonne Pattinson OAM eight years ago. It coordinates teams of enthusiastic sewers to repurpose donated uniforms from public safety agencies such as Queensland Police Service, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Queensland Ambulance, Queensland Corrective Services, and Australia Zoo.

To date, they have saved the uniforms from landfill and transformed them into more than 8000 items of clothing donated to children who have a need, no matter who they are or where they are.

U4K Director Anne Macdonald, APM, said the partnership with Sew Many Second Chances had worked out beyond expectations.

“We are always looking for more people to help with the sewing,” Ms Macdonald said.

“The men and women at Sew Many Second Chances have really stepped up to the challenge and are turning out beautiful, repurposed clothes.

“It’s so satisfying to know that not only will children in need benefit, so will the women from Sew Many Second Chances, especially from gaining and improving skills which will help their chances of gaining an income.”