North Bend ACE store gets grant to help Helping Hands

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NORTH BEND - ACE has long been the place for copying keys, dealing with crabgrass or picking up some shiny new latches.

But now the ubiquitous hardware store can add "benevolence" to its inventory.

The ACE Hardware in North Bend is one of only 10 stores nationwide that were recently awarded a $5,000 grant to improve the community facility of their choice.

ACE chose the Mount Si Helping Hands Food Bank in North Bend.

Last year, the ACE Hardware Corp. began the "New Faces for Helpful Places" program to celebrate its 80th anniversary. About 100 Ken McCarty, coordinator for Helping Hands, said the food bank is currently helping about 240 households each week, or about 6,000-7,000 people in the Upper Valley.

Helping Hands was built in 1972, before that it was run out of an old garage next to the North Bend Community Church. A community funding drive paid to put an expansion on the building, "which we thought was bigger than we needed at the time. Turned out it's crowded. It's seen a lot of hard usage," McCarty said.

Among the wear and tear is water damage and door problems, not to mention a lack of space for storage, among other problems.

"There surely are plenty of things they can do," McCarty said. "We feel honored but I also think it's a good indication of the respect the food bank has in the community. We must be doing something right."

Helping Hands will receive more shelving and a storage system, improvements to the flooring, exterior lighting and other projects yet to be determined.

"Some of their needs are so drastic. Right now they're using upside-down plastic milk crates as shelves," Bennett-Reinert said. "They've just kind of been making due, just getting by for so long. We're hoping to make it better than just getting by. We want to make what they do easier to execute."

Choosing the location wasn't too difficult for ACE. The store had to stay within certain parameters. Because they could only use materials from the store, no projects requiring lumber could be taken on since ACE in North Bend doesn't carry lumber. It came down to the Mount Si Senior Center or Helping Hands. All the materials needed for the renovation will come out of the North Bend store or the warehouse they order from.

* Helping Hands will need a place to store its refrigerator and freezer along with all its food. To help, call ACE at (425) 888-1242 or Helping Hands at (425) 888-0096.stores from around the country wrote essays on why their choice was deserving of an overhaul by ACE. The 10 winners were selected based on the location's need, overall use by the community, emotional significance and overall contribution to the town.

ACE employee Marcia Bennett-Reinert wrote the 100-word essay for the North Bend store. She was surprised that no other stores from the region submitted essays.

"Probably a lot of people don't want to bother," she said. "I guess small towns are different, everybody tries to help everybody else to a certain degree."

She said the $5,000 worth of wholesale materials will be worth around $9,000 retail in the end. On June 14, ACE's "Helpful Hardware Man" Lou Manfredini will work with a team of 20 volunteers to add several improvements to Helping Hands, which should be completed in one day.

In March, ACE will start recruiting volunteers to help work on June 14. Sign-up sheets will be available in the store and at Helping Hands. ACE will also recruit City Council members and other public officials from both Snoqualmie and North Bend.

"Everyone is so excited to get going right away, but, of course, we have to wait for better weather," Bennett-Reinert said. "We thought it'd be kind of fun to give them the news around Christmas."

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