What is The Cowshed?

The Cowshed is a compassionate and community-driven charity dedicated to providing support to individuals of all backgrounds during times of personal crisis. Our mission is simple yet impactful: to offer good quality, cleaned, and ironed clothes and other essential items free of charge to those in need. We firmly believe that everyone deserves access to basic necessities, regardless of their circumstances.

A Gift of Support

At The Cowshed, we go beyond providing mere clothing; we strive to offer a sense of dignity, compassion, and assistance.  We understand that receiving support during challenging times should feel like a gift rather than a handout. That’s why we prioritise providing clothing that is not only practical but also makes our clients feel valued and cared for. We aim to dispel the notion that assistance means receiving worn-out or damaged clothes. Instead, we offer a selection of high-quality items that can uplift and empower individuals, helping them navigate their personal crises with confidence.

Our support extends to individuals of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds facing various difficult situations. From individuals escaping domestic abuse and families experiencing emergency rehousing to those affected by health-related poverty, homelessness, or emergency custody situations, we stand by their side, offering support with clothing, shoes, bedding, curtains, school uniforms, baby equipment, and other essentials.

Providing clothing and essential items to those in crisis does not solve all their needs. However, by giving individuals and families one less thing to worry about, we provide them the opportunity to focus on other challenges they might be facing. We have found that providing good quality clothing can make a tangible difference to a person’s confidence and self-esteem when facing a difficult situation. Our support also extends to children, as we provide school uniforms, allowing them to feel on a level playing field with their peers.

How we work

We receive kind donations from the general public, as well as retailers and manufacturers. These are then carefully sorted, washed, and ironed at our premises to ensure that they are in excellent condition and ready to be delivered or collected by our clients, social services, health professionals, or other referring organisations.

Our Journey and Impact

The Cowshed was established in 2018 and has been fully operational since mid-February 2019. Since our inception, we have experienced remarkable growth and are honoured to have supported over 20,000 individuals in need. Each week, we receive an increasing number of referrals from a diverse range of sources, including Health Visitors, Social Services, Foodbanks, Schools, Refuges, Churches, Doctors, and several local charities. This network of referrers enables us to reach individuals who require our assistance the most.

Creating Community Groups

The impact of The Cowshed extends beyond providing clothing and essential items. By supporting our charity, you contribute to three important aspects: helping those in need, promoting clothing recycling, and creating community groups.  We firmly believe that these pillars are crucial for fostering a more sustainable and inclusive society.

One of our community initiatives is the “Craft at The Cowshed” group, a vibrant and inclusive sewing community. This group brings together individuals of all ages and backgrounds who share a passion for creativity and craftwork. Whether you’re an experienced sewer or a beginner eager to learn, everyone is welcome to join and participate.

Being part of Craft at The Cowshed goes beyond sewing—it also has a substantial benefit to mental health and well-being. Engaging in creative activities has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost self-esteem. The camaraderie and sense of community within the group create a supportive network where members can connect and form lasting friendships.

A sustainable approach

In line with our commitment to sustainability, The Cowshed ensures that every donated item serves a purpose. Good quality clothes are meticulously prepared for our clients, while slightly damaged garments and bedding are repurposed by our dedicated community arts and crafts group. These items are either sold to generate funds or transformed into practical tote bags which our referrals go out in , furthering our mission and reducing waste. Any remaining textiles are collected by recycling organisations, minimising our environmental footprint, and contributing to a circular economy.

The rise of fast fashion has led to an alarming increase in clothing waste. According to the European Parliament, European fashion brands now release up to 24 collections per year, compared to just two in 2000. The global fast fashion market is projected to reach £28 billion in 2023, according to GlobeNewswire. Unfortunately, this fast-paced industry encourages people to discard perfectly good clothes simply because they are considered “last year’s colour” or style.

Clothing utilisation, measured by the average number of times an item is worn before being discarded, has significantly decreased since 2003. Garments are being replaced at an ever-increasing rate, driven by the dynamics of the fast fashion industry. Shockingly, less than 1% of these discarded garments are recycled, highlighting the urgent need for change.

At The Cowshed, we aim to change the narrative surrounding clothing waste and promote a more positive environmental message for the fashion industry.

Thank you very much for delivering much wanted items for our Service User. She appreciated it very much. From me, please tell all of your team to be proud of the work they do because the support you provide for vulnerable people goes a long way in taking away their anxiety of worrying about how they will purchase items they really need but cannot afford. This gives them time and increases their capacity to begin dealing or focusing on the barriers or issues they have.

Modern Day Slavery and Victim Care Advice , Migrant Help

The value to our service users who have accessed your service goes far beyond the actual assistance itself. It can be the first time the family have ever received tangible help and felt listened and responded to. Hugely valuable. Thank goodness for you and your wonderfully positive organisation. Often for our families with very complex needs, the benefits they can access through the Cowshed are the only positive, practical help that is available, and it gives a little bit of hope and faith in human nature.

Family Advisor, Reading Mencap

I can’t thank enough for what I’ve just received. The amount is one thing, but the quality is another. I’m totally shocked how generous you have been. From someone who has been used to abuse and plagued with addiction over the last 2 years, making a recovery in a fresh place and doing the NA and the 12 steps, I’m not used to such kindness. All I can offer is a thank you from the bottom of my heart and one day When I’m in a better place I’ll be Able to offer more than just a thank you. I’m loving my colourful t shirt, it’s very me it’s probably the nicest fit the nicest T-shirt I’ve ever had. Thank you so so much.

Client, Bracknell Forest Council

Today one of my officers was brought to tears with a delivery of items from The Cowshed this is to enable one of our service users to attend a funeral on Friday. Ensuring people have good family ties and maintain support networks is a crucial part of reducing reoffending and this is going to be really important to this person although for a sad reason, as he will reconnect with others that are important to him.  Just wanted to say a huge ‘thank you’ from all of us at Probation, as so many of our officers have positive stories to tell about The Cowshed and we’re really grateful for all the support we are given from you and you team.

Senior Probation Officer, Reading Probation

Thank you so much for the clothing items you provided the below family with. I spoke with Nan and she was absolutely thrilled – she sounded so happy and said that it had been like Christmas in the home at the weekend, with her granddaughter trying on her new clothes and putting on a fashion show for them! Thank you so much, it’s made such a difference to this family.

Social Worker, Adopt Thames Valley

Thank you SO much. The Mum was unbelievably grateful. Her husband on top of everything else has just lost his job so it is a very tough time, and she is in a dark place. You cheered her up no end. Thanks for all you do.

Pastor, Shinfield Baptist

My children received 2 massive bags yesterday from cowshed of school uniform and all these lovely extras I’ve never seen my children so happy thank you so so much! Honestly, it’s so appreciated!

Client, CAB Wokingham

Let me thank you, the person who delivered the bags and everyone who contributed, for the bags of clothes, shoes, toys and even books. I can tell that everything was prepared and chosen with the special care and even love. I really appreciate that you thought of every need we might have. Everything you found for us seems to be the right size and design. You even found the dresses for me:). I am very grateful for the work your organisation is doing and for this special touch. It is amazing. May God help you with everything you have in your lives.

Ukrainian Refugee

I am emailing to say the biggest and most heartfelt thank you for the stockings you provided for my children this Christmas. I was absolutely blown away by the generosity shown towards my family, the children had a wonderful Christmas that I just could not have provided for them this year. The father of my children various issues which has meant he has been unable to contribute physically, emotionally, or financially towards our children for a few years now. I had never anticipated that I would find myself a single parent to young children, we have been staying with family for a couple of years whilst I finish my studies and get back onto my feet, money has been extremely tight. Christmas is a stressful time for so many families who worry about disappointing and upsetting their children like I have done in recent years. I was honestly so moved by the lengths the Cowshed have clearly been to, to help families like mine. Thank you for everything that you have done.

Client, Hillside Primary School