Koha Apparel founder Charli Cox with community member Huki.

Looking for a cause to get behind? This worthy initiative is helping clothe those who need it most

It’s always a good time to think about what you could be doing to give back to the community and those in need. It can, however, occasionally be a little confusing trying to figure out what the best use of your funds or your time will be. In this series, we’re highlighting initiatives that we deem worthy of your support. Just in time for winter, here’s what you need to know about Koha Apparel.

The philosophy
Founded in 2019, Koha Apparel aims to clothe those in need through a dignified retail experience, while simultaneously reducing the amount of clothing that ends up in landfill. The store utilises a pay-as-you-can system, allowing the community — including its most vulnerable members — to access clean clothing for free or donation.

With around 3000 people living homeless or below the poverty line in Auckland alone, the importance of clean, quality clothing for them is paramount. In addition to providing protection from the elements, it can give people confidence, and improve both comfort and employment prospects.

Who they are
Koha Apparel was founded by Charli Cox who, up until very recently, has coordinated donation and distribution efforts around her full-time day job. Aside from manager Ruth Corin, Koha relies on volunteers to keep the wheels turning.

What they do
Running 12 pop-ups a month throughout Auckland, as well as Whangārei and Papamoa. Koha Apparel serves approximately 250 people throughout the month, distributing over 600 items of clothing. The service has also just started in Wellington, and is currently occurring once a month with plans to grow. The demand is certainly there, says Cox. “We could be doing pop-ups every night of the week if we had capacity.”

Who they work alongside
In Auckland, Koha Apparel works alongside several food and community services, including Everybody Eats, Life Community Kitchens, Sunday Blessings and Feed the Homeless Auckland, bringing people together for some social time as well as to receive fresh, clean quality clothing. Other organisations Koha works with are Feed The Streets, Potluck Communal Kai, LIFE Community Kitchens, Soul Food in Whangarei and Kaibosh in Wellington.

“The social aspect of what we do is just as important — if not more — than the clothing,” says Cox. “I look forward to seeing our community week-to-week, and it’s a two-way street.” The service also has partnerships with several local brands, like Icebreaker, Workshop, Superette and more, that donate excess stock in a move that both mitigates clothing going to landfill, and provides premium, good quality pieces to Koha.

How to get involved
If you are doing a wardrobe clearout, donations of clean, freshly laundered clothing with no permanent stains are always accepted by Koha Apparel — including women’s, men’s and children’s.

The preference for warmth or lightness will change depending on the season, so make sure to check on their website. You’ll also find contact details for after hours delivery, or donations are welcome at all weekly pop-ups with an online calendar providing dates.

Cox also stresses the need for regular volunteers to help manage the pop-ups, so if giving the gift of your time will have you feeling fulfilled, we strongly encourage you to make space in your schedule.

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