Monroe clothing bank closes its doors

MONROE — Shelly Richardson of Sultan has been keeping her young grandkids in clothes from the Valley Clothing bank for more than a year.

Now, there will be one fewer place to go for her and many other families in need.

The church that runs the clothing bank, Tapestry Vineyard Church, had to downsize and recently sold its building and the property where the clothing bank is located. Wednesday was Valley Clothing’s last day of operation.

“It’s going to affect me deeply,” Richardson said. “It helps out immensely. It’s been a real blessing having it here. I hate to see it go, for myself and the other families.”

Francesca Mesneak, wife of Senior Pastor Mike Mesneak, said the church lost a key tenant in its industrial-park style building at 17146 Beaton Road SE. This, combined with other economic factors, led to the decision to sell the property, said Mesneak, who volunteers at the clothing bank.

“It is really hard to close an outreach that meets a real need in our community as well as to lose that connection with so many wonderful people,” Pastor Mesneak said in a written statement.

Tapestry Vineyard Church plans to continue services at 4:30 p.m. Sundays, beginning July 7, at the East County Senior Center at 276 Sky River Parkway. The church will maintain an office at 20014 U.S. 2, Unit C.

Neither of those locations can accommodate the clothing bank.

Church officials spoke to the new owner of its former building about continuing to lease space in the mobile home on the property where the clothing bank is located, next to the main building.

“He’s a business owner and investor and he wants top dollar and nonprofits are not his racket,” Francesca Mesneak said. “We understand that.”

The only other free clothing bank in the Skykomish River valley, according to Valley Clothing shoppers, is Tabitha House in Sultan, run by the United Methodist Church at 212 Birch St. It’s open noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, but is closed until July 16 for maintenance, director Donna Rice said.

The Monroe church started Valley Clothing nine years ago, inspired by two young moms who wanted to start a children’s clothing exchange. At first it was called Hope Chest, then as it grew its name was changed to HANDS and finally Valley Clothing.

Recently it grew to serving 7,000 to 10,000 people per month, Mesneak said. About 1,400 families are in the clothing bank’s data base.

While much of the clothing was for children, garments for men and women were available as well. Anyone could shop for free for the rest of the family. People were asked to check in at the desk but proof of income was not required. Many families were referred from local schools, volunteers said.

Donations came from a variety of sources. On its last day Wednesday, the bank still had about 200 men’s pants, 300 women’s pants and between 150 and 250 coats, for example. Shoppers had been limited on the number of each type of item, but those limits recently were lifted, Mesneak said. The remaining clothing will be donated to other non-profit groups.

Valley Clothing was open the first and third Wednesdays of each month, for four hours per day in split shifts, staffed by a rotating team of 12 volunteers.

Roberta Burtis, of Sultan, has put in “thousands of hours,” Mesneak said.

Burtis said she discovered Valley Clothing in 2009 “after I became homeless and lost everything. I bounced back and ever since then I’ve been helping out.”

While the transition for Tapestry Vineyard Church has been difficult emotionally, Mesneak said, it’s been an opportunity for the church to refocus.

They’re looking at other potential ways to serve, she said. A meal program is one possibility. “It’s given us a chance to look at our community through fresh eyes,” she said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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