Hackney businesses get community-minded

Doorstep Laundry Photo Tim Sullivan

Doorstep Laundry runs a Rags to Riches clothing charity scheme. Photo: Tim Sullivan

Amid ongoing talk from the government about its Big Society idea, the Citizen set out to discover if our borough of Hackney had anything that resembled a ‘little society’. We spoke to several local businesses where the people concerned were not running charities or social enterprises – they were there to make a profit. So what did they give back to the community, and why?

Charity on your doorstep: Rags to Riches

Richard Thompson set up The Doorstep Laundry three years ago, providing laundry and dry cleaning services to homes and businesses with free collection and delivery. The Rags to Riches side of his business has been running for two years and has been able to recycle more than 10,000kg of clothing.

Richard originally trained as a textile designer, then moved into community care work. While working busy days for social services he saw a gap in the market and designed his business model around this. He describes it as “a fast service for busy people”.

Rags to Riches is the charitable side of the Doorstep Laundry and has adopted four charities: St. Joseph’s, the Salvation Army, Oxfam, and homeless charity St Mungo’s.

All of the laundry’s customers know about the scheme and when they have some clothing to donate, they let the Doorstep Laundry know. They nominate their charity of choice and the donation is collected when they’re next having laundry collected or dropped off . When their donation gets to the shop it is put in the appropriate colour-coded bin to be forwarded to the charity’s shop at a later date.

The fourth charity – St. Mungo’s – has a slightly different relationship with Doorstep Laundry. The arrangement there is that each time someone moves on from their hostel, they get a discount on the laundry bill for the bed-linen they have used.

The Doorstep Laundry is located on the corner of Westgate Street and Sheep Lane, overlooking London Fields.

For the love of food: Datte Foco

Datte Foco is at  the end of Stoke Newington Church Street. The restaurant’s name means ‘set yourself on fire’ and the sign above the restaurant reads, ‘A pizza and love joint’.

Owners Herbie Leonelli and Neil Belgrave say they have food left over at the end of the evening but have had serious difficulties distributing it to any churches or homeless organisations.

“Putting it in the bin just kills me,” Herbie said. He had approached several local charities, to no avail. The Citizen was happy to put Datte Foco in touch with a local group, North London Action for the Homeless, and they now have an outlet for their delicious leftovers two days a week.

Seeing value in community: Whole Foods Market

The Citizen‘s third visit was to Whole Foods Market (chain store) in Church Street, Stoke Newington. Every evening the store gives out food to charities that support the homeless. For the last three years the shop has supplied complete hot meals to the winter night shelter at St Mary’s Church in Defoe Road, which runs from New Year’s Eve until 31 March, whilst some of their staff have volunteered there.

Know of any other local businesses making a difference? Email: editor@hackneycitizen.co.uk