Longtime Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank president hangs up her hat

Del Mead, former president of the Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank, tends to the racks at the clothes bank recently on South Third Street. - Charles Cortes/Renton Reporter
Del Mead, former president of the Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank, tends to the racks at the clothes bank recently on South Third Street.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/Renton Reporter

Since stepping down from the president’s position for the Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank board in September, Del Mead has been catching up on her sleep and enjoying family. But, the 88-year-old is not backing away from her life-long passion yet. Mead says she will serve on the board for as long as she is able.

She is known to many in the community for her work with the clothes bank to which she began contributing in 1967, later served on the board of directors and eventually became board president in 2000.

“She is the clothes bank,” said Pat Auten. “I mean she has always been a driving force to keep up the clothes bank.”

Mead has been a role model to Auten since she met her in the early ‘80s.

“She is just one of those women that as a woman you look up to her,” Auten said.

Auten participated in the Soroptimist organization with Mead and served with her on the clothes bank board the whole time Mead was president.

Auten called Mead a joy to be around as a good listener and leader, able to make informed decisions and make everyone feel included.

“If everybody was a little like her, it would be amazing the things that would happen,” Auten said of Mead’s community service.

Current president of the Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank, Susan Bressler, described Mead as a “tireless advocate for those who are less fortunate in the community” pouring “her heart and soul into the operations” of the clothes bank.

“Del has seen the true blessings that have come from children and adults receiving a helping hand when they need it the most,” Bressler said in an email. “By receiving, even gently used clothing, children are able to go to school with their heads held high, and are better prepared to learn when they don’t have to worry about basic needs.”

Bressler has worked with Mead on the board for about six years.

So, why did Mead decide to dedicate so much of her life to community service and what has she learned?

“I’m 88-years-old and keeping involved and helping your fellow man over the rough bumps of life is very important,” Mead said. “And as long as I’m able to do that, it gives me a fulfillment.”

In terms of relating to the people she has served, Mead said, “I’ve been there and done that.”

As a child, she remembers standing in line for food with holes in her socks. Mead was the recipient of clothes from charitable organizations at a young age, but said her family worked themselves out of poverty and have thrived ever since.

She has learned in all her community service - 37 years with the Soroptimists - that giving another guy a lift up gives you a lift up, too.

Mead has learned many things that she is happy to share with anyone who wants to know.

“I’ve learned that giving is better than receiving most of the time,” she said. “And helping others is so gratifying and self-fulfilling and gives meaning to your life.”

Mead likes to refer to the clothes bank as her “little shop of miracles” because of the many wonderful things that happen to people there.

Everything from finding a nice-fitting suit for a customer for an interview to giving a child a coloring book, all kinds of experiences have given her satisfaction over the years.

“So, you learn that every little thing you do is important as well as the major things that you can contribute,” she said.

But there are things many may not know about the kind and generous woman.

For example, her parents were Vaudeville performers and Mead herself performed on stage in productions across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

She worked with a magician and got sawed in half. Mead was once a ski queen of a ski area in north Michigan, where she’s from originally.

“I’ve just done all kinds of exciting things my whole life,” she said.

Mead had a special connection to the city of Renton before she even moved here.

When the 707 airplane debuted, it took its maiden flight to an Air Force base near her hometown of Oscoda, she said.

Mead worked for the school district at the time and the district got a grant to build a school in the shape of 707 airplane.

Her husband would later take a trip out to Washington, meet a Boeing recruiter on a fishing trip and soon after they moved to Renton.

“I have been in my house on Talbot Hill since 1957,” Mead said, when the city’s population was about 16,000.

She used to go hunting with her husband, John, with her own Ithaca Featherlight shotgun and 6 mm rifle.

John passed away in 1986.

“So, I’ve been alone for quite awhile, so that’s how I got more involved with everything else,” Mead said.

She’s made lots of wonderful friends and will continue to lend support to the city.

Mead worked as a Renton city clerk from 1972 to 1982. She has also volunteered in the front information booth of the City Hall lobby since 2000. Mead has worked or volunteered for eight different Renton mayors.

“I’ve had a very wonderful, exciting life and Renton has been a big part of it,” she said.


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