Clothing bank to close doors for now

For more than 17 years, low-income families with schoolchildren in the Federal Way School District have relied on a local clothing bank to help dress their kids.

The Federal Way PTSA Council’s Clothing Resource Center, housed in a single-wide mobile home in back of Truman High School, has served 700 students and distributed 4,700 pieces of clothing since last September.

But on March 26, it will close its doors, and the future of this community service is still a blank.

“We’ve been negotiating for a temporary space, but nothing’s signed yet,” said Charlotte Kemble, president of the PTA Council. She said finding a new home for the clothing bank is one of the council’s major projects.

Truman High School is scheduled to begin its remodeling project April 15, and the trailer is going to be removed from the site before then, Kemble said.

The council pays no rent for the 900-square-foot trailer, and “there’s no way” it can be moved to another location,” Kemble said. “It’s too old, leaks and would probably fall apart if we tried.”

What’s needed is a similar-sized space with a similar low-to-no rent situation –– “another area of about the same square footage; just a building, a storefront that’s not being used,” she said.

The PTSA has been working with local businessman Skip Priest, Federal Way School District superintendent Tom Murphy and School Board member Ed Barney to find a permanent site for the non-profit operation.

“We hoped that someone in the community could let us use their space and write off the deferred rent on their taxes,” Kemble said.

The clothing bank’s financial status is bare-bones, according to Kemble. It has $14,000 cash on hand, $1,300 in income, and a yearly expense of $5,874. That expense is for the new socks and underwear purchased in bulk from Wal-Mart each year.

“We’re completely out of the new garments,” Kemble said.

The clothing bank gets the bulk of its donations from clothing drives run by PTSA and individual schools. For the past five years, income came from a $4,500 grant from the city of Federal Way, but that money wasn’t continued this year.

“The city asked us to give them information on our clients — their ethnicity, how many people are in their households — we just couldn’t provide for confidentiality reasons,” Kemble said. “When the clothing bank refused to give them the information, the city refused the grant.”

According to assistant city manager Derek Matheson, that requirement is standard.

“As part of our human services funding process, we require a great deal of reporting to make sure the funding is making it to those it’s important for us to reach,” Matheson said.

But the most pressing need now is for the clothing bank to have a permanent home.

“This is a greatly needed service in Federal Way, and the last thing we want to do is close for good,” Kemble said.

Open for clothes

Until its scheduled closure March 26, the Federal Way PTA Council Clothing Resource Center will provide each child with six new pair of underwear, six socks, one heavy coat, two winter hats and one pair of gloves. The clothing bank also has prom dresses.

Hours are 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of each month. Additional information is available from clothing bank chairwoman Tami Gamba 838-2834 or Federal Way PTA Council president Charlotte Kemble at 874-0612.

Another clothing bank is operated by the Multi-Service Center. The facility, located next to the food bank at 1200 S. 336th St., serves all of south King County and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s also open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. the fourth Thursday of each month.

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