It’s no secret that supporting our community is at the core of Hammersmith Support! Giving back and supporting those in need is a pillar of our business. Over the years, we’ve worked together to help UMOM New Day Center, Feed My Starving Children, and Save the Family during the holiday season. And throughout the year, we support a nonprofit by providing pro bono maintenance services. We believe it’s important to support those around us to help build a strong community.
While our team was attending the TN Women Connect LIVE event in October, we also made time to volunteer at UniCycle, a school uniform recycling program for Nashville area schools. UniCycle also has a food pantry in partnership with Homeless Education Resource Office (HERO), which is where our team was able to jump in and organize for them. We know you’ll enjoy learning more about the valuable services UniCycle provides, and we’re grateful for Jami Oakley, the founder and executive director of UniCyle, for sharing with us.
Tell Us About UniCycle
“UniCycle is a volunteer-led organization that collects and redistributes school uniform items in Nashville. We collect ‘outgrown, not worn out’ polo-style shirts and khaki, black and navy bottoms (the standard school uniform for Nashville public school students) in schools districtwide through a system of branded collection baskets and a UniCycle Coordinator at each school. Then, each school keeps what they need to serve students in their school’s UniCycle Closet, and any excess comes to our warehouse location in donated space in an elementary school. We then serve students in the Homeless Education Resource Office (HERO) with that inventory and send boxes of requested items to closets that need more than they collect. It’s really just a system of organizing a huge chunk of the city’s hand-me-downs into a way that serves our most vulnerable students first, then everyone else.”
What Is UniCycle’s “Why”
“UniCycle began after a conversation I had with the director of the HERO program. I had read about the organization and how many students were in unstable housing in Nashville each year—in the neighborhood of 3–3,500 each year—and that she ran the entire program with only two employees. The HERO department is charged with making life easier, school more consistent and resources easily accessed for families in the public school system who are experiencing homelessness. What a worthy mission! So I think the biggest lesson I learned from how UniCycle began is the importance of starting with a question. I didn’t go to her with a preconceived notion of how I could help her support these families—we had an open-ended conversation and hit upon school uniform items as a challenge, a barrier to education and a large expense for her department. We felt like the community could rise up and fill that need, and we developed a way to make that happen.”
How Can We Get Involved?
“We hope that by now, the majority of Nashvillians think of us first when their kids outgrow yet another pair of khaki school pants—that’s what we need! Outgrown uniforms. And, of course, we’ve gotten large enough that now we need some funds to make it all keep rolling, so we do have a donation function on our website and will launch our first-ever social media fundraising campaign this month!
We love having volunteers and telling people the UniCycle story—nothing makes me happier than seeing other people get the ‘big picture’ of why we’re doing what we’re doing and the impact that it can have for a family. It was so great having the Hammersmith team in to work with us.”
What’s Next for UniCycle?
“We recently moved into a larger office and warehouse space that we share with the HERO department, and that’s allowing us to expand our support of families. We’re so close to the HERO team every day, we’ve picked up on other ways we can help the community to fill in gaps for families in ways that are completely doable, but can be a gamechanger for those families. We’re going to harness that idea by launching the UniCycle Family Fund next year. Part of our fundraising in November and December of this year will be an attempt to raise $10,000 to launch this fund, and it will provide money to be used on immediate critical needs (think: emergency medication; new nonslip shoes for a parent to start a restaurant job; a gas card so that appointments with resource providers can be met). It’s exciting to grow our reach and feels good to do it so organically.”
Learn more about UniCycle and how you can volunteer or donate by visiting their site www.https://unicycleforschools.org/
Visit our Giving Back page to read more about how Hammersmith Support works with our community, as well as some wonderful organizations you can get involved with too!