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Who will help Arlington's Helping Hands?
ARLINGTON — The clock is ticking for Helping Hands of Arlington.
The thrift store at 127 W. Cox Ave. has until the end of October to find a new home, but without some outside intervention even the most inexpensive of options will be well out of their reach.
“We’ve found three houses for less than $100,000, one just down the street for about $75,000,” said Lana Lasley, treasurer and store manager for Helping Hands. “We’ve applied for grants from the Tulalip and Stillaguamish tribes, the Lions Club, United Way and anyone else we could think of.”
The city of Arlington is reclaiming the property used by both Helping Hands and the Arlington Food Bank for public works offices and improvements to Haller Park.
According to Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield, city staff have been providing Helping Hands with any contacts that may be able to help the store find a new space in Arlington.
While the Arlington Food Bank has secured new property at the Arlington Airport, the staff of Helping Hands is still searching for about 1,000 square feet of rent-free space, since the thrift store donates its proceeds back to the community.
“We can pay for our utilities, but if we have to pay rent, we won’t have any money left to give away,” Lasley said. “Last year, we dispensed $18,000 to community groups. This year, we’ve only been able to hand out $7,500.”
The thrift store’s most recent payout was in June of this year, when it parceled out $500 each to the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, Support 46, Cocoon House, the Arlington “Dollars for Scholars” Foundation, Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Toys for Tots and Village Community Services’ “Voices of the Village.”
“We’ve gotten letters from customers telling us that because our clothes are so inexpensive, they buy them in bulk and ship them to people in need in Mexico, the Philippines and the Ukraine,” Lasley said. “We have one big Russian guy who comes in like clockwork and buys up as many of our stuffed animals as he can to ship back to his home country. It’s gratifying to hear that what we do is able to serve not just our local community, but the world. They couldn’t afford to do that with anyone else’s prices.”
The store’s customers on Oct. 5 were outspoken in support of Helping Hands, both as a community service organization and as a place to shop.
“I’ve been coming here every week for the past 10 years,” said Patricia Meda, an Everett resident who continues to drive to her former hometown of Arlington to patronize the store. “They have good prices on kids’ clothes.”
“Helping Hands helps a lot of people,” said Lorraine Counsellor, who’s come from Smokey Point for eight years to bolster its community donations and take advantage of its bargains. “I hope they find a new place. There are so many folks who depend on this store, especially these days, with no jobs and prices on everything else going up.”
Arlington’s Sue Brodeur guessed that she’s visited the store almost every day that it’s been open.
“You just can’t beat this place,” Brodeur said. “They’ve got quality clothes at such great prices that I sometimes feel stingy for how much I’m paying, because they give that money back to the community. I try to make up for it when I can. Plus, the ladies who volunteer here are so loyal and devoted that it makes this a fun place to shop.”
“We need somebody to step up,” Lasley said. “It could be a tax write-off for them. We’re only weeks away from our deadline, but we’ll keep trying right up to the last minute. We’re running out of time, but we haven’t given up hope.”
For more information, call Helping Hands at 360-435-2214. Ideas, offers of help and donations can be mailed to 127 W. Cox Ave., Arlington, WA 98223.