GRANITE FALLS — A line formed at the library on Wednesday for patrons wanting to cozy up with a blanket, not a book.
The first 20 people were given Thanksgiving meal kits with all the fixings at the annual Winter Clothes Giveaway by Angel Resource Connection.
Nobody left empty-handed. Far from it.
At the door, everyone was handed a Santa-sized plastic bag.
“Take what you need,” they were told.
Take for themselves, their family members, to share with friends who need it. And make sure to take a few of the 300 homemade chocolate-chip cookies.
The tables were organized with hundreds of coats, gloves, scarves, boots and blankets — all sorts of goods for adults and kids. Volunteers served as personal shoppers at the three-hour event.
“We want empty tables,” said Penelope Protheroe, executive director of Angel Resource Connection and chief cookie baker.
Her “street angels,” as she calls them, have been collecting and sorting winter items for months. Donation boxes were set up at stores including Ace Hardware, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Lake Stevens Co-op Supply and IGA.
“The community really stepped up and helped,” Protheroe said. “People really gave up some good quality things. Granite Falls is a giving town.”
Instead of a plastic bag, Donavon Sansom, 47, an Arlington widower with kidney disease, used his walker to tote a comforter and plaid sleeping bag chosen from the “blankets” table. The Seahawks scarf he scored was around his neck. Just when he thought it couldn’t get any better, he saw a reversible Apple Cup knit hat in Huskies and Cougars colors.
“That’s going to stay in my hand,” he said.
Sandra McHenry, of Lake Stevens, found a stylish puffer coat that was a perfect fit.
“My other long jacket ripped out at the sides,” she said.
She turned down the deal to fill up on sweaters and scarves.
“I just need what I need. I don’t need no more than I need,” McHenry said.
Protheroe, 61, has lived in the Granite Falls for 30 years. In 2013, she made it her mission to keep people warm.
Her older sister, Kim, who had episodes of homelessness, died of hypothermia in 2010 after leaving a domestic violence situation.
“She died from being cold and exposed in the outdoors,” Protheroe said.
A few years later, a close family member was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“The only way to overcome my grief was just go and help people worse off than I was,” Protheroe said. “I found my calling. I’m supposed to be helping people who are struggling. It’s not religious. I don’t even go to church. I wanted it to be my lifestyle.”
At first, Protheroe paid for everything herself before starting Angel Resource Connection as a nonprofit that now has several outreach vans. Her husband, Daniel, came up with the angel theme.
“A lot of people have a hard time paying their heating bill. A lot of homes are poorly insulated. People wear layers to lower the bills. A lot of people are living in their car,” she said.
Deanna Espinoza, 56, an Arlington widow with vision impairment, can attest to all of the above.
“I was homeless with my husband. When we had a car, we slept in the car at different churches,” Espinoza said. “He had chronic substance abuse problems. He died on the streets five years ago.”
At Wednesday’s event, she selected items for the five formerly homeless men in her life. They live on the 8-acre Arlington farm she inherited when her father passed away.
“One man lives in a tent. Two live in a barn and another in an RV. The RV is ice cold. They are desperately in need of warm clothes and blankets,” Espinoza said.
The property needs a lot of work. “We take care of each other,” she said.
Protheroe and her angels do outreach from Seattle to Bellingham, but mostly serve Snohomish County.
“We drive around and we see people and we feed them, hand out jackets. Making sure every homeless person we can find will get a jacket,” Protheroe said.
They have street pop-ups to hand out food and clothes.
After the library giveaway, they planned to take warm coats and hot meals to homeless men and women in Everett.
The group has about 30 volunteers, in various specialties.
At the giveaway, board vice president Karl Uselman helped shoppers in the men’s section.
“There’s a huge need in the community, not just here but everywhere,” said Uselman, who lives in the Samammish area. “In the big cities there’s more attention, but there are still a lot of people who fall through the cracks.”
His son, Isaac, 21, was his right-hand man.
“This time of year, it’s all about gratitude. Spreading the love, spreading the gratitude,” Isaac said.
Be an angel
Angel Resource Connection is based in Granite Falls and covers all Snohomish County and parts of three other counties.
More info: www.angelresourceconnection.org or 425-496-7711