Community

From city hall to clothing bank: Gift of Apparel serving needy until Snoqualmie building sale

SVA Church Pastor Marty Wright and Gift of Apparel Director Jan Van Liew hang items at the clothing bank
SVA Church Pastor Marty Wright and Gift of Apparel Director Jan Van Liew hang items at the clothing bank's new Snoqualmie location. Gift of Apparel now provides clothes to the needy at the former Snoqualmie City Hall, 8020 Railroad Avenue.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Deliveries still come to the old Snoqualmie City Hall.

Last week, working from a small black counter where the old customer service desk used to be, Jan Van Liew unpacked the latest—a bag stuffed with warm coats and pairs of socks and gloves. The items, donations to Snoqualmie Valley Alliance's Gift of Apparel clothing bank, mean a warmer winter for needy families.

For the last month, Van Liew, director of the Gift of Apparel, has watched the city hall make a transformation. The vault is now storage for sleeping bags, racks of clothing replaced cubicles, and the bathroom is a changing room. SVA church's Urban Mission, which provides food, clothing and blankets to Seattle's homeless, is based in the old kitchen.

Where people used to pass permits and utility bills, Van Liew now stuffs shopping bags with donations.

"It's all free," she said. "We bag it up and say, 'Here, hope it helps.'"

Defunct for more than a year after losing its former rental space in downtown Snoqualmie, the clothing ban reopened just after Thanksgiving at 8020 Railroad Avenue due to a generous outreach by the city of Snoqualmie.

Since the building is for sale, the site is a temporary loan. To Van Liew, it's a Christmas gift for everyone.

What they do

Since 2005, Gift of Apparel has taken in donations of new and gently used clothing, then provided it to needy families in a dignified manner. Residents receive vouchers through schools, police and fire agencies, Encompass and the House of Hope women's shelter, then come in and shop.

"This is a way for us to leverage help for our community," said SVA church lead Pastor Marty Wright. "It means the mom who's struggling to put food on her table can use those resources for other things."

On opening day, Van Liew bagged up and handed out 116 items.

"They were waiting at the door when I came in," she said.

Gift of Apparel relies on corporate and public donations, and also gets first dibs on items from the new Northwest Center drop box at City Hall.

"This is all good merchandise," Van Liew said. "I won't take it if it's not something I'd want my family to wear."

The store also helps women from local shelters build their resumés, working and sorting.

"They want to give back," Van Liew said. "They become volunteers here in the community."

Van Liew dreams of turning Gift of Apparel into a permanent thrift store for anyone to buy items at discount. Revenues would help with overhead and ultimately go back into the community.

Prior to the city's offer, Gift of Apparel was based in Van Liew's garage. She filled the occasional orders for Christmas groups, but in the main, the charity was down for the count.

Now, Gift of Apparel has a highly visible and accessible storefront, close to the bus stop. As a side benefit, Van Liew's husband gets to use his garage again.

When the old city hall sells, Gift of Apparel will move on. Wright is hoping to find something very similar for a new home.

With three times the space of their old location near Sno Falls Brewery, "A spot like this is beyond ideal," he said. "We know it could be short term, but we're here."

Wright said the church is taking any and all ideas for a permanent home for Gift of Apparel.

"We know it'll work out," he said.

The former city administration building, adjacent to Snoqualmie Market, is valued at $520,000.

• Gift of Apparel's business hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays and 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Hours will expand as volunteers sign on. The charity can be reached via SVA Church at (425) 441-8364.

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