'Team effort' makes Romford school uniform event a success

Queue of parents for SMILE's free school uniform swap in Romford

Queue of parents for the school uniform event in Romford - Credit: Karim Camara

Parents could stock up on as much school uniform as they needed at a charity event in Romford this week. 

From Monday to Friday (July 25 to 29), charity SMILE (Support, Motivate, Invest, Lead and Evolve) distributed school attire from Romford Shopping Hall. 

The event was organised by Maria Quaife along with Michelle Fitzgibbons, sales and marketing manager at the Shopping Hall.

Michelle Fitzgibbons, sales and marketing manager at Romford Shopping Hall, with SMILE's Maria Quaife

L-r: Michelle Fitzgibbons, sales and marketing manager at Romford Shopping Hall, with SMILE's Maria Quaife - Credit: Karim Camara

Parents were asked to donate £2 on entry, but after that, were able to get take away all types of uniforms - from classroom wear, PE clothes, plimsoles and other school accessories - without a price tag.

Michelle said: “The parents have been so generous with the donations and swapping things over.

"It is a nice thing to do for the community.

"I’ve got the empty units sitting there doing nothing and Maria gave a shoutout saying that they needed the space and I have got the space that I thought they could use.

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"I’ve got guys out on the market donating the railings and the hangers, so it has been a real team effort.”

School uniform event by SMILE in Romford

The school uniform on offer - Credit: Karim Camara

On the first day, the queue extended outside the shopping centre to the car park an hour before the charity event started.

Attendees told this newspaper it was a brilliant idea with many usually spending upwards of £400 on uniforms for their children. 

Many said this will help free up funds to spend on utilities and other bills during the cost-of-living crisis.

The parents said they were delighted with the number of clothes on offer and the condition they were in.

SMILE has been providing school uniform for the past three years, but usually does it through a referral process. 

However, due to the cost-of-living crisis, it decided to open it to everyone. 

SMILE's free school uniform event

Parents could get a variety of school uniforms - Credit: Karim Camara

Maria said: “We realised this year with the cost-of-living crisis, there are families who don’t fit our remit, who are not on benefits, but working-class families still can’t afford the uniform.

"So we have opened up to the whole community - that way, with £2, even if you walk away with a polo shirt, you still break even.”

Michelle is also looking for new businesses to set up in vacated units from £150 a week. Find out more at www.romfordshoppinghall.com