A Broadstairs mum-of-two and local government worker has set up a Thanet Community Dress Drive to make sure youngsters can go to their school proms even if the family has no income to spare for an outfit.
Catryn Beynon, 40, has collected hundreds of items from dresses and suits to bags, make-up, jewelery and toiletries in a bid to make sure every Thanet young person can attend the end of school events.
Catryn said: “I ‘stole’ the idea from a lady I follow on Instagram but when I saw it I thought Thanet could almost certainly benefit from something like that. I hate the idea that anyone might miss out on an opportunity to celebrate their achievements in school and mark such a significant milestone because their family might be in financial hardship.
“I see families struggling in Thanet and when I was in school, I know my mum struggled to afford my May Ball dress all those years ago. I want to help all the families I can in however small a way it might be. “
Thanet youngsters in ‘absolute low income’ homes
In 2020/21 Thanet had almost 5,000 youngsters aged under 16 who were classed as in an ‘absolute low income’ family. Absolute low income is defined as a family in low income before housing costs. For the 2021 year calculations were the average (median) household income before housing costs was £ 539 per week (around £ 28,100 per year) and 60% of the median income equates to £ 324 per week (around £ 16,800 per year).
The data, published by Kent County Council last month shows the number of children across the county living in absolute low-income families has increased by 0.3% since the previous year.
Thanet has seen the biggest fall in both number and percentage with 522 fewer children living in absolute low-income families, a fall of 9.8%, compared to the previous year. However, the percentage of children in low income families in the district is still the highest in Kent at 18% (4,815 under 16s) compared to 9.3% (2,214 under 16s) in Tunbridge Wells.
Thanet has the third highest proportion of children living in absolute low-income families in the South East and the highest number of children living in absolute low-income families that have at least one adult in work (3,664).
‘Overwhelmed’ by Thanet’s response
Catryn hopes to help the youngsters in those families and any others who need it.
She said: “I really wanted to do this and have wanted to do things before but didn’t have the confidence. I really wanted to do something good for the community. My youngest son George (6) has a number of disabilities and had been unwell for a number of years. But he is better now and at school so I have a bit more time to commit and decided to put the fear aside. “
Catryn says she didn’t tell her husband what she was doing but eventually had to confess as more and more items of clothing were dropped off at the house!
She said: “I reached out to the people of Thanet through facebook and instagram for donations and have been overwhelmed by the response.
“The house is completely taken over. There are five rails of clothes, suitcases, boxes in every nook and cranny. There were more than 200 dresses but I’ve lost count now, there are eight suit bags, Thanet Hygiene Bank gave toiletries and pampering products, the Tesco community lady Sue gave loads of unopened make-up testers, there are shoes, bags, jewelery .
“The majority of dresses are incredible and there is a variety of sizes from 4 to 26
“Glam Event hire has been so helpful and offered to decorate the venue for us for free.
“Sara-Louise Jones (Lisa) who was a midwife who looked after me when I was pregnant with Sebastian (now 7) has been the drop off point in Ramsgate taking in so many dresses and her help has been invaluable.”
When and where
The event will be held at the Royal Harbor Academy (upper site at Marlowe Way) on Saturday, May 21 from 10am.
Catryn said: “Royal Harbor Academy got in touch and have been absolutely incredible, so supportive and understanding. The teacher, Sam, said it was amazing and something we really need in Thanet and said to use their venue, which is really fit for purpose and has changing rooms.
“I hope pupils can come along to see what we have and hopefully find something that they love and take it home for free.”
Catryn says clothes left over, particularly items that may be more suited to work wear, will be given to the Thanet and Whitstable community clothing bank and possibly to charities working with people in refuges or using homelessness services.