Kiwanis Clothes Bank wants shoppers to feel like they are in a normal retail establishment, and a recent move to a larger location in Renton has helped them achieve that. They held a ribbon cutting in honor of the move on Oct. 16.
From a crowded space in the old Chamber of Commerce building on Rainier Avenue to their new 1,200 sq. ft. home, with 800 sq. ft. of storage at 444 Park Ave. N., near the new Sartori school, the clothes bank employees, volunteers and board are pleased with the change it’s made.
“It was a very busy street, and we have a lot of people that walk to get to our facility, and so it was quite difficult for them to do that and there wasn’t a bus service that was close,” said Jon Pozega, president of the clothes bank advisory board, of the old location. “Now we’re centrally located in the city, easy for people to get to. There’s bus service, there’s parking where we are, and the facility is over twice the size what we had. The new location is fantastic, it’s a God-sent. Having that much space and being able to organize it in a better place then it has been, cause its always been in a very crowded area, we now have some rooms so folks can move around, and hopefully, they feel as though they’re in a regular retail store and shopping like everyone else.”
The clothes bank moved in May with the support of the Renton School District and Superintendent Damien Pattenaude. He helped them find the new location, Kiwanian Vanessa Chodykin said. Chodykin also thanked the Chamber of Commerce for their support of the clothes bank during the ribbon cutting.
Although the clothes bank had a slow start in its new location, in September the Salvation Army wrote 189 vouchers for people using the clothes bank, which Pozega said was huge.
Typically those coming to the clothes bank will visit a church, social service agency or salvation army to receive a voucher for the clothes bank. Pozega said those agencies typically know the family situation and can verify the people are in need. They keep it on file so they can continue to serve those folks.
Pozega said they also serve Renton’s homeless population, who often wander in without a voucher. In that case, the staff helps them fill out vouchers to make sure their information is kept for the record for grants.
“Even though the community is doing well we have a tremendous number of folks that are, not only homeless but are either poor or near poor and just barely scraping by,” Pozega said. “So if you’re really on a tight budget, clothing is the thing that you don’t cover. You cover a place to stay and food, and if those two pick up most of your dollars than clothes kind of go by the wayside. So we have the opportunity to really fill that void and restore people’s dignity so they can go to work and school and be properly attired.”
Pozega said everyone who volunteers or works on the board has a story of helping a family in need, Pozega said. He remembers one family that recently moved to Renton and their house burnt down. The clothes bank was able to outfit the whole family in clothes and assisted them in finding furniture for the new place they were moving into.
The clothes bank accepts only clean and wearable clothes and monetary donations. Pozega said money donations, grants from Renton through the block grant program, and support of their premiere sponsor Kiwanis is what keeps them in operation.
“Renton is such a giving community that it has been a great relationship since the clothes bank opened in 1967,” Pozega said. “We’re always on the street corner with our hand out asking for money because that’s what keeps us in business.”
All money donated goes to internal needs, including stocking up for back to school and the holiday Christmas season, so kids can have something new for school and new presents and coats in winter. They have one paid employee and otherwise rely on support from volunteers and community members.
Currently, the clothes bank needs more clean and wearable men’s clothes, winter coats, new socks and underwear. The bank is open Monday through Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. More information is available at www.rentonkiwanisclothesbank.org.