Community clothing bank helps folks in need
August 28, 2008 · Updated 9:38 AM
MARYSVILLE As the holidays gear up, a local woman is keeping a promise made decades ago by opening a clothing bank for people in need. St. Josephs House moved to new and larger quarters this month, just in time for the holidays.
The community clothing bank opened in March of this year after founder Lenora Bruce recalled her days raising six children by herself as a single mother on welfare. She pulled her self up by the bootstraps, retiring from a 22-year career with Boeing and is now repaying the help she received years ago.
We have some awesome stories to share, Bruce said as she was settling in to her new facility on Fourth Street. An anonymous donor made the down payment on the house in a commercial district, and word-of-mouth garnered support from contractors who donated their services or offered great reductions on their quotes for work needed for the new digs.
Everything for the agency is donated, and all is given away. Besides clothing, the house also stocks household supplies, including kitchenware, dishes, and the like; even blankets and bed sheets. They help many victims of domestic violence, who often have to leave an abusive situation with only the clothes on their back and the kids tugging at their skirts.
They just thank you over and over again, Bruce said. We get so much out of it.
St. Josephs House currently offers help for about 518 people, who can shop at the bank on a monthly basis, picking out the items they need themselves. They rack up points based on their selections, which helps regulate demands on the inventory and ensure that everybody gets what they need. St. Josephs House has had as many as 96 customers on a single day and the new facility offers more space for sorting, displaying and disbursing donations. Racks of clothes are divided by ages and sizes for both adults and children. A family can receive eight items per person each month, or about 40 per family, Bruce said. The points system helps keep track of what is in demand, she added.
Some things we dont count; were generous, said Aggie Mikula, a St. Josephs worker.
In addition to domestic violence victims, the bank helps people forced out of their houses by fire or other disasters.
We open specially for them, Bruce explained adding that when the Three Rivers Mobile Home Park in Monroe was flooded, St. Josephs House took the store to them.
We took a truckload everything we could think of that they would need, Bruce said. That truck was loaded to the brim.
Bruce felt the call to give back about 30 years after the birth of her last child when she was living in Milbank, South Dakota. Six kids and no husband made for an awful time, and Bruce had to reach out to someone.
I decided I needed St. Joseph to help me, said Bruce, a devout Catholic. She figured that since Joseph had raised Madonna and Jesus maybe he could lend a hand with her. As her kids have all grown up Bruce felt the call to make good on the promise she had made to her saint. Puyallup has had a clothing bank for years: St. Francis House also feeds people and offers many other services, and was started by five women involved in the local diocese. Bruce thought Marysville could use a similar institution and got busy.
St. Josephs House is not affiliated with any denomination and receives many donations from a Lutheran church in Lake Stevens as well as St. Marys Catholic Church in Marysville. There are no religious tests or affiliations for any clients or donors, and nobody is turned away, according to Bruce.
Right now the struggle is to make the estimated $2,000 in monthly expenses, which includes the mortgage payment and utilities. There has been no want of donations as yet; Bruce is at a loss to explain just where all the clothing and household items come from. Many times a client will ask if the clothing bank has a certain item, and about a week later a donor seems to always show up asking if they might be able to use just such an item.
We dont know; they just come in, Bruce laughed, looking at the top of a clothes rack filled with pairs of black pumps.
For more information about St. Josephs House see their website at www.saintjosephshouse.com, or write to Saint Josephs House, PMB #A12, 621 SR 9 NE, Lake Stevens, WA 98258.