Family First gives Mansfield and Ashfield folk a helping hand

NMAC11-2413-1''Dee Benson, seated pictured with volunteers Steven Crowder and Brian Reece at the Family First Store on Stockwell Gate
NMAC11-2413-1''Dee Benson, seated pictured with volunteers Steven Crowder and Brian Reece at the Family First Store on Stockwell Gate

KITTING out a new home is always an expensive task, particularly if you are on a low income and starting from scratch after escaping domestic violence or life on the streets.

But one charity with a base in Sutton is helping to make that daunting task a little bit easier.

The Family First charity, which has shops on Low Street in Sutton and Stockwell Gate in Mansfield, relies on donations of good quality furniture and white goods which can be sold at an affordable price and aims to stop people getting into debt.

Family First, which has been in Sutton six years and Mansfield for a year, began back in 1965 and provided support for teenage mums. It now helps many different groups in the community.

Retail Manager Dee Benson said: “It does not look like a charity shop. People have the same shopping experience as they would if they went to John Lewis.

“Just because you are disadvantaged with money does not mean that you should be disadvantaged with your shopping experience. We like people to go home feeling delighted they have got something.”

But since the recession hit, the charity has seen a drop in furniture donations because people are not buying new items for their homes and are holding on to what they already have.

At the same time, many more households are struggling and depend on Family First for furniture.

The charity also offers people who receive benefits a 25 per cent discount on donated goods.

Dee says: “People are not buying so they are not giving away.

“The appliance side is worse than furniture. People are not replacing their kitchens. If they have a new kitchen, they have new equipment to go with it. We only deal in furniture - we don’t have anything to fall back on.”

Because Family First provides a furniture service, staff and volunteers need to ensure there is always something available, even if this means buying in brand new items to keep the shops stocked.

The charity has also seen a decline in the number of volunteers who are vital for keeping the shops running. Volunteering also gives people valuable training experience.

Volunteer Brian Reece has been working in the Mansfield shop for a month while completing a Masters degree in Strategic Management.

He says: “I’m loving it. I cover for the one in Sutton as well and it’s about giving something back to society.

“I am hoping to change my career from retail to the charity sector and this is a foot in the door.”

Jobseekers who take part in placement schemes have also disappeared because of a new policy to put people on placements where they have a chance of securing a permanent position.

The charity also works with local authorities such as Ashfield District Council who donate good quality furniture which has been collected. This is turn diverts waste from landfill.

Family First offers free pick-up for suitable items. For details call 08000130497. To volunteer call into one of the shops.