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CRC clothing bank seeks new source of funding

"The loss of $4,500 in funding could mean a colder winter for some Federal Way school children who rely on the Parent Teacher Student Association clothing bank to get socks, underwear and other clothing come September and the start of a new school year.However, Susan Honda, clothing center coordinator, says she'll pursue new funding sources for the center before hitting the panic button. If the loss is not made up, the gap won't be felt until the new school year begins.Honda said the PTSA did not pursue $4,500 in human services contract funding from the city of Federal Way for 2001-02 because PTAA members don't want to comply with some of the requirements tied to funds.In past years, the PTSA received as much as $7,500 per year from the city, but in 2001 the PTSA was up for $4,500, Honda said.Federal Way city officials wanted clothing center volunteers to record client information like income and racial background and also asked that the city be named on the center's insurance. The PTSA objects to the demographic information requirement because it doesn't want to make clothing center patrons uncomfortable and because the PTSA's mission is to serve all kids in the district, Honda said.And realizing the economic situations of most of the center's patrons, Honda and fellow volunteers try to make the shopping experience smooth.We don't want to close the door to anybody, she said. ...We only ask for proof that they live in Federal Way and have a kid in Federal Way Public Schools.Honda recalled the time a boy and his mother visited the bank during a back-to-school shopping day last year.They found an outfit for him and left the center. Ten minutes later, the boy returned and told Honda he needed underwear and school supplies. He said his mother was too embarrassed to ask.Ann Guenther, city human services manager, said Federal Way asks agencies to fill out a demographic form that lists where clients reside, household income levels and other information like gender, age and ethnicity so it can make sure the people who need help are being aided. We really want to make sure the city money is going to help people who are low and moderate income, she said.Guenther added the city had been working with the PTSA to address its concerns about workload and sensitivity prior to the PTSA's decision not to pursue funds for 2001-02.Of greater concern to the city is the insurance issue, Guenther said. If an agency the city gives money to is sued, the city also could be named in the lawsuit and possibly be responsible for any damages awarded if the lawsuit is lost. Thus, the city asks all agencies it funds to name Federal Way on their policies, she said.It protects the city's interests and protects city resources. That's a requirement for all city contracts, Guenther said.To make up the funding gap, Honda said the center will seek more donations from Federal Way service clubs and will pursue funds from King County, which has fewer strings attached to its money. She'll also ask local PTSA groups to pony up more money, but admits that endeavor might not get far because PTSA groups generally have less money these days. However, local groups could do underwear and sock drives, she said.Kids helped, hopes raisedHonda said the clothing center serves about 3,000 kids each school year.Melissa Brooks, counselor at Mark Twain Elementary and a former clothing center volunteer, said the center is needed.It's a wonderful asset, Brooks said. ...A child can get fully outfitted there, and it's something that the kids will want to wear. It's not something that's torn or stained.Brooks said many families in the district are barely scraping by and don't have enough money to properly outfit their children.Aside from warm coats, shoes and school uniforms - all of which can be picked up as the need arises - kids can get six shirts and four pair of pants every three months from the clothing center. Students also are eligible for five new pair of underwear and five new pair of socks each year as well as some school supplies, Honda said.The clothing center's largest expenditure is for new underwear and socks. If the center does not make up its funding gap, it will have to cut back on those items, she said.The clothing center was started in 1985 by local PTSA groups because some children did not have enough clothing to get them through the school year. We don't want to see someone at school that doesn't have a coat or doesn't have shoes, Honda said.School counselors and nurses frequently refer children to the center. Some students are wearing sandals in the winter, while others are wearing the same outfit day in and day out, Honda said. "

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