The Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank has served the community since 1965, but it looks as if they might have to hang their coats up for good at the end of the month.
The clothes bank has been renting space from Renton Area Youth and Family Services on South Third Street for nearly 30 years. However because their host needs to expand, the bank’s time at the 670-square-foot space is coming to an end and they haven’t been able to find an affordable space in Renton yet.
“We’ve been trying for two years to find space but our problem is that our budget doesn’t afford us to rent at the going rate,” said President Jon Pozega.
Pozega said they’re looking for at least 1,500 square feet retail space but 2,000 would be optimal as they need extra space for storage and sorting through donations.
“We’ll get by for whatever we can find,” he said.
The last day at the space on South Third Street is Dec. 31.
The clothes bank has been serving the community by giving free clothes for homeless and low-income families and individuals for decades. The clothes bank began as an all-volunteer operation in the Highlands before they moved to their current downtown spot.
In 2000, it was sponsored by the Renton Kiwanis Club and was incorporated as the Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank. They have been working with the Renton School District (RSD) to help provide clothes for students as well.
In 2015, they served 1,600 people in Renton.
“There are lot of students at RSD who wouldn’t have clothing if it weren’t for us,” said boardmember Pat Auten.
“We have a limited operation due to the fact our budget is so small,” said Pozega. “We have only 16 hours of operation a week, and in that 16 hours, it’s amazing how many folks we serve in the course of a month. We serve anywhere from 350 to 800 people in a month.”
Over the past few years, Pozega and Auten said they are seeing more and more people coming in and needing clothes, largely due to the growing homeless population not only in Renton, but those in the surrounding areas as well.
“When a family plans a budget, food is first along with a roof over their head, running water and electricity,” said Auten. “Clothes are the last thing on the budget.”
“Seattle’s homeless population is probably going double the next year. Ours is going to do the same,” said Pozega. “Even though we think the economy is getting better — and it is getting better — there is still 22 percent of the population who is still struggling.”
As the end of the year draws near, there is a sense of worry at the clothes bank, but Pozega and Auten seem to still have some hope.
“Renton Area Youth and Family Services have been wonderful to us,” Auten said. “We’ve been fortunate to stay here this long. But all good things come to an end.”
“It breaks our hearts,” said Pozega. “ I can’t imagine kids in the RSD how they will survive without our services. I can’t imagine what our homeless population and the working poor in the community will do; they can’t afford to go to St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill.”
The Renton Kiwanis Clothes Bank is open from 1 – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at 1025 S Third St. Their last date at the downtown space is Dec. 31.