Helping Hands seeking new space in Arlington

ARLINGTON — Curtis Tiff was out of options.

The Arlington resident’s 14-year-old son needed school clothes and, like many parents, he was currently out of work and strapped for cash.

So when he learned that Helping Hands Thrift Store was handing out free gift cards, he made sure to sign up.

“I’m proud, but I wanted to make sure he had clothes for school,” Tiff said. “We’re really grateful. The people here were wonderful.”

Tiff was one of about three dozen families to recently receive $25 Marshalls gift cards from volunteers at the Arlington-based used goods store. Volunteers handed out approximately 100 cards — one per school-age child — during two appointments on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

The service was just one instance of Helping Hands’ contributions to the community. The organization donates thousands of dollars each year to a number of local charities, including the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, Dollars for Scholars and the Arlington Fire Department Support 46 Services.

But those contributions could be in jeopardy if the organization’s staff can’t secure a new location to house its store.

City of Arlington officials have informed Helping Hands volunteers that as early as next year they will need to reclaim store’s building, located at 127 West Cox Avenue near Haller Park.

At that time, the city plans to move its public works and utilities staff from a rented portable near the new wastewater treatment facility to the buildings that now house Helping Hands and the Arlington Community Food Bank.

Although both organizations will be forced to vacate their buildings, the food bank has securing grant funding to move into a new space near the Arlington Municipal Airport.

Lana Lasley, director and treasurer of Helping Hands, said that with help of food bank volunteers the organization tried to get on that grant but were turned down since they were not part of the original proposal.

Staff from the store, which sells used clothing, furniture and toys to community members for cheap, do not have the necessary funds to pay rent due to their limited operating budget.

Lasley said that Helping Hands doesn’t even pull in $1,000 total.

“We’re looking for a building that’s rent-free or very close,” she said. “We could pay our own utilities.”

City of Arlington spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said that she knows that the city’s notice has been distressing Helping Hands volunteers, and added that city officials don’t want the store to disappear.

“They do an incredible service by providing scholarships and low-cost clothing that people need,” Banfield said. “But we need to be able to use that area that belongs to the taxpayers. We really did want provide them with as much notice as possible. It’s never easy to tell people that the space they’re occupying is going away.”

Banfield added that the city has encouraged them to reach out to the community to see if space is available.

Despite funding obstacles, Lasley said she’s asking customers and community members to spread the word that Helping Hands is a necessary service and said she’s hoping that somebody willing to offer a space comes forward.

The store has 10 volunteers, and is open nine hours per week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Helping Hands has been in operation since 1970. They can be reached by calling 360-474-0282.

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