Three philanthropic Dundee businessmen are helping a city children’s charity appeal for more donors so it can expand its storage, stop having to turn away donated items and help more families in need.
Andrew Renwick, Managing Director of Caltech Lifts, first helped Togs SCIO, which is based at The Circle in Staffa Place, in November 2019 when he and his wife Suzie wanted to donate a £1,000 newborn pram and baby clothes they no longer needed to a good cause.
Through friends they heard about Togs, but when they offered the items they were told that sadly the charity couldn’t accept them because it didn’t have any spare space in the two rooms it rented. Fortunately, soon after Togs called to say it had a referral to help a new mum who could do with the donations, so it was arranged for Andrew to drop them off.
The charity’s plight struck a chord with Andrew, whose firm has a long history of helping out people and charities where it can, so he appealed through LinkedIn for donations from his network of friends and contacts to pay for an extra, larger room. This would allow the charity to accept and hand out more clothing and equipment to families struggling to afford the essentials needed after food and fuel to raise children with healthy bodies and minds.
Within an hour that resulted in offers to share the £2,400 annual rent from Mike Smith, Managing Director of Joinery contractor W.B.S. Keillor, and two other pals. One of them later pulled out, so the remaining three shared the cost
Last year, Togs was needed more than ever by struggling Dundee families whose situation was made worse by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Togs’ volunteer Chair of the Board of Trustees, Pauline MacDougall, says the extra room proved invaluable: “It’s been absolutely essential in allowing us to store more donations for future use.
“During lockdowns it helped us store items in quarantine for 72 hours to comply with Covid safety. It’s also allowed us to store larger items such as prams, high chairs and cots.” Naturally, Andrew and Mike agreed to pay for the room for another year. This time they were joined by property developer Gordon Lees in sharing the cost.
Needs more storage space
Now the annual room rent is due again, they’re appealing for more donors to come forward – so Togs can rent even more rooms to enable it to help more people – because, again, it’s reached the point where it has to turn down donations through filling the space it already has, including two further rooms it pays £500 a month for from money its volunteers raise.
“We have to turn away donations for lack of storage space almost every day,” says Pauline. “If we had more space it would allow us to accept all donations and plan proper stock rotation – in the Summer we receive lots of Winter clothes and vice versa.
“We currently have to be very creative with how we store items outwith the relevant season. We put out targeted shoutouts on Facebook to avoid getting too many items we don’t need at that time. However we may need those items the following week or month, so it can be very frustrating.
“If a business could help with the rent of one of our current rooms, that would also be very much appreciated – as it would free up funds we have ring-fenced for rent and allow us to instead buy the essentials we need, such as the new pants and socks in every referral, as well as mattresses. We also try to put in toiletries and pyjamas, but this isn’t always possible.”
Andrew Renwick urges anyone who can help Togs via a donation to do so: “It was obvious to me and Suzie from the moment we saw the service Togs provides that it was an incredibly worthy cause deserving of more support. We hope lots of people with some spare cash can help.”
Gordon Lees added: “My wife Karen has been a volunteer a couple of mornings a week the last three years. Her involvement has made me aware of the poverty suffered by so many on our doorstep as well as what a great charity Togs is bringing happiness to these less fortunate citizens of our city. As a company we’re more than happy to help sponsor a room and would urge others to do so too.”
Mike Smith said: “Our company is delighted to support Togs as the Board members and volunteers do a tremendous job. The donations and contributions by the general public are greatly appreciated and I hope we can help get more.”
Desire to help
Founded in 2015 as Togs for Tots CIC by Arts educator and mother-of-two, Jordan Butler, she identified that many people have the desire and means to help whether they have unwanted items, the income or the time to donate. Jordan wanted to give a clear solution that would signpost to professionals and the community easy ways to help their neighbours.
It’s since edited its name and changed the technical type of charity it is, but Togs’ mission remains the same – “to be the go-to service for anyone struggling to afford the essentials needed after food and fuel to raise children with healthy bodies and minds, pre-birth to 18, including items for expectant mothers.”
Togs believes no child should go without its ‘Five to Thrive’: 1) Enough clothing for all seasons, with changes; 2) Comfortable footwear for home and school; 3) An age-appropriate bed with bedding; 4) Key equipment and toys for cognitive and physical development and 5) Activity that promotes the development of strong family and social bonds.
It runs like foodbanks – receiving donations from the public and distributing them to children suffering from the effects of poverty through online form referrals from someone who’s not a friend or family of the child and can vouch for the child’s level of need, usually a professional who works with the child in some way.
Once Togs receives a request for help, it creates a package tailored to the needs of the child. It’s open Tuesday to Thursday, 9.30am to 12.30pm.
To date, Togs has helped more than 2,000 children and this year it’s had 213 referrals and helped 346 children with 289 clothes packs, 14 buggies, eight highchairs, five cots and eight Moses baskets.
Togs is run by a core group of volunteers from all walks of life, but who have in common the qualities of empathy, passion and the want to make a difference to the lives of others. Pauline started as a volunteer in 2016 and took over as Chair in September last year.