MARYSVILLE — Lenora Bruce acts as if it is a miracle how Saint Joseph’s House operates.
“Our God lives. He keeps sending them here,” she said. “The community’s the sole supporter.”
Bruce started the community clothing bank 10 years ago. But many people don’t even know it’s there. A new sign on the front of the house in the 1900 block of Fourth Street makes it easier to find.
The house allows people at 150 percent of the poverty level to get free items. For a family of four, that would mean an income of about $35,000 a year.
The house serves people all over Snohomish County. Word of mouth is how most people find out about it, either to donate or receive.
“You’d be shocked how much stuff goes through here,” she said, adding that almost 100 people visited one day. “Tomorrow we’ll have to build it all up again.”
Svetlana, of Everett, was there this week. Friends told her about it. Not only does she find clothes for her two kids, but also for herself.
“Almost everything I wear are clothes from here,” she said.
Clothes for everyone in the family are available, along with kitchenware, toys, books, towels, bedding, household items, sleeping bags, tents, etc.
“We do everything we can to help,” she said.
Because customers are on the honor system, sometimes they take advantage.
“We serve the needy so we serve the greedy as well,” Bruce said, adding some customers in past years were said to be selling items at garage sales.
As a result, only first-year clients still can shop once a month. People who have been going there for two years can shop once every two months. Three years every three months, etc. …
When Bruce was a single mom with six kids, she was helped by the Saint Francis House in Puyallup. She said she made a promise to God if he helped raise her kids and keep them out of jail.
After she retired from Boeing, she followed through on that promise.
Each client gets 10 points per shopping trip. A family gets up to 50 points. Four pairs of socks, for example, equal one point. Some items are free. Pregnant women and those with toddlers can get baby items without counting against their points.
Often it can be hard to find a parking spot.
“They’ve been lined up to the garage” about 40 feet away, she said, adding the numbers drop at the end of each season when they have all the summer or winter clothes they need.
Marisa Olmstead was hired about a year ago to help the house raise money. She wrote a grant to the Tulalip Tribes, which provided some funding. They also had a bingo fundraiser, and are having a dinner-auction Saturday. The Seahawks, Mariners, Aquasox and Scuttlebutts have all donated items.
The goal is to improve their facility, but Bruce said she would love to see it move from its packed 1,400-square-foot home.
“I’d love that, to provide more,” she said.
Bruce said they work with so many agencies: Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, police, fire, YMCA, churches, food banks, mental health, the Scouts and more.
She shared a story about why the house is her calling. She said a woman came to the house after it closed, and Bruce let her in because she said she had terminal cancer. She was in her 30s and had three kids. She had just come to Marysville so her children could get to know their grandparents, with whom they were going to live after the mom died. She was losing weight and had only saggy, baggy clothes.
“I could imagine what it would be like” wanting to look good for your children in that situation, Bruce said.
“God is loving, caring so much for these people,” she added. “It’s a privilege and a blessing to share his generosity.”
Steve Powell: firstname.lastname@example.org; 360-659-1300, ext. 5050.
At a glance
*Saint Joseph’s House: 1925 4th St. in Marysville
*Open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to noon and 1-5 p.m.
*Open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon
*40 volunteers put in 4,227 hours to serve 4,463 clients.
*Volunteers are needed mostly on donation days, Mondays and Wednesdays.
*Dinner and Diamond Dinner and Wine Auction
*6 p.m., Saturday, April 23, Lake Stevens Senior Center, 2302 Soper Hill Road.
*$25. Plus please bring a decorated bottle of wine to auction off.