Charity hopes to stay in its home


Herald Writer

EVERETT — An Everett service group will continue raising money for a new building, which will house a program giving clothes to school kids, even while the site is being eyed by the city.

City leaders are looking at five downtown sites as the possible location for a special-events center that could attract trade shows, performers and a minor league sports team.

One of the sites is a city block at Hewitt and Lombard avenues. A portion of the block is occupied by The Assistance League of Everett. It’s where the League operates a thrift store and several programs, including Operation School Bell.

The service group will not abandon expansion plans intended to relieve pressures from cramped quarters.

"We’re continuing because nothing has been finalized," said Sally Joy, spokeswoman for the organization. "We’re assuming that we are where we are. The city could change its mind."

About a year ago, the League announced it would expand its building at 1619 Hewitt Ave. and also build a new building for the School Bell program. The League, with a membership of 315 people, has been at its current site for 25 years.

The all-volunteer group has already raised $800,000 toward its $1.5 million goal for the project.

The group hopes to build a 7,750-square-foot brick home for Operation School Bell as well as office space. The organization has bought property adjacent the current site and hired an architect.

The plan also includes a 500-square-foot remodel of the group’s existing building to increase the size of the thrift shop, a major source of income for the group.

Some of those plans could change if the organization moves to a new location.

The city’s news came as a surprise, Joy said. The League will continue its community service efforts regardless of location.

"We could have a totally brand new facility," Joy said, adding that service efforts will increase in coming years because of the need out there.

The League works on seven projects aimed to promote the well-being and self-esteem of children, teens and adults in Snohomish County. Operation School Bell is the organization’s primary project.

Fourteen school districts throughout the county refer children to Operation School Bell to receive clothing. Children and teen-agers choose their own clothing from the program’s store.

Operation School Bell has served more than 36,500 children since the Assistance League organized here in 1965.

The League began as a women’s organization and now also has about 15 male members, most of whom are husbands of members, Joy said.

City leaders recently met with League volunteers to let them know of interest for the site. City administrator Don Hale has said the $40 million to $50 million special-events center would be a great feature for downtown. Locations of the four other possible sites were not released.

Hale has said, however, that each location is within blocks of the city’s new transportation center, Everett Station, under construction along Pacific Avenue.

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