The project giving Amazon surplus goods to Scots families in need

A pilot project pioneered by a Fife charity could be a country-wide blueprint to helping people struggling to cope in the face of spiralling costs.

Sunday, 17th April 2022, 4:55 am

A warehouse packed with surplus goods from Amazon is now the nerve centre for the Cottage Family Centre’s unique initiative.

Items which would once have been routinely destroyed are now going direct to people with the most need.

In just 15 weeks, it is estimated that £1m of goods have found new homes - up to 6000 per week shipped out via a network of 60 charities and frontline organisations which have signed up to the pilot.

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AMAZON charity coalition - Back (from left) John Boumphey, (Amazon UK Country Manager, Rt Hon Gordon Brown,, Pauline Buchan (Manager of Cottage family Centre), Front - Simon McMahon, and Ben Robertson - Amazon Dunfermline.

The Cottage has been supporting people across Kirkcaldy for over a decade.

Now, with the backing of its patron, former Prime Minister and Kirkcaldy MP Gordon Brown, it has become the first charity to sign a contract with Amazon to distribute surplus goods.

It started with Mr Brown pitching the idea to John Boumphrey, who runs Amazon’s UK operations. The company has already dispatched a senior team to see how it works with a view to adopting it in the USA.

More companies have signed up with in-kind support and substantial donations, and the project has grown in scale at rapid pace.

Launching the new initiative (from left) John Boumphey, (Amazon UK Country Manager, Rt Hon Gordon Brown,, Pauline Buchan (Manager of Cottage family Centre),

Mr Brown, who described the response as “remarkable”, sees the Fife pilot as one that can be replicated across the country.

“This is very much a pilot to show what can be done elsewhere,” he said. “It isn’t just for Fife - but here we are looking to expand. We are looking at the bigger picture

“We thought we ‘d do 100,000 goods, now we are looking at 300,000.”

The Cottage team at the heart of the huge operation has just acquired a second warehouse and it is speaking directly to companies in supply chains who can offer surplus goods to families in need. Cupar based commercial laundry Fishers, plus hotels and caravan parks in Fife have all offered bedding in a bid to keep people warm.

Pauline Buchan and Gordon Brown at the Cottage Centre warehouse filled with goods destined for families in need across Fife

Pauline Buchan, service manager, said: “This isn’t a crisis intervention project - it’s all about early intervention.We don’t want to wait until people are in crisis before getting help to them.

“Right now, people can’t afford to turn up their heating - or even turn it on. We cannot let them go cold.

“We are already planning for the winter ahead because we know energy bills will rise even higher.”

That strategic approach is key to the charity helping as many families as possible.

Some of the boxes of goods from Amazon being distributed by the Cottage Centre to families in need across Fife

The Cottage is speaking to churches and Rotary Clubs to get them on board, and it is looking at how it can help improve people’s living conditions with a new project, House To Home.

It will feature a network of decorators, painters, joiners and electricians giving practical home improvement support.

Mr Brown explained: “We want to start redecorating people’s homes and making them places that are warm and welcoming - places they feel happy in.

“We know that they cannot afford tradesmen so we are looking at carpets and flooring as well as painting walls and getting tradesmen to offer advice on renovations.

“The key is having a warehouse and being able to move quickly to get people what they need.

“And the need right now is so much greater than ever.”