Caring Closet celebrates new additions
The "grand opening" of a restroom and laundry room has probably never generated as much excitement or as big a crowd as the one that took place at the Caring Closet on the Tigard High School campus on Sunday, Oct. 29.
The Caring Closet, which is located near the Tigard Aquatic Center and provides clothing, shoes, hygiene products and emergency bedding to underprivileged students in the Tigard-Tualatin School District, has been operating out of two "dry" portables that lacked running water for close to 10 years.
With no restroom or laundry facilities, dedicated volunteers took all the donated clothing home to wash and dry before it could be displayed in the "store," and Executive Director Rose Money described the lack of a restroom onsite as a deplorable situation. If volunteers had to use a restroom while at the Closet, the only options were the Aquatic Center, a Porta Potty behind the building or a long walk to the main entrance of THS to sign in as a visitor before using the facilities.
So if nature called, volunteers often drove to one of several nearby stores or restaurants where they knew there were restrooms open to the public.
"Little kids had accidents," Money said. "Finally, about a year ago there was a 90-year-old woman here who needed to use the restroom, and none of our options were good ones. That was the final straw."
Fast forward a year, and with the project complete, about two dozen people, including those who worked on it as well as Closet volunteers, gathered in the newly landscaped front yard of the Caring Closet in the fall sunshine to celebrate the "grand opening."
"We are thrilled," Money said. "We have 30 volunteers every week, and one of them said to me that now with a restroom here, I will get more work out of them!. It is amazing how many people came today, and everyone has helped in one way or another. The Caring Closet has been around for 17 years.
"All our time here we have never had water. We had 2,000 visits (children served) last year, so that is a lot of clothes in and out. It takes a lot of work to do it. I expect we will keep that laundry going, and we will still need volunteers to take some home. We have a 94-year-old King City resident named Belle who faithfully does two loads of laundry for us every week.'
The new restroom is down a ramp outside the portables' front door, and the laundry room, which also serves as a kitchen complete with a sink, small refrigerator, microwave and storage, is off the annex, a storage room next to the new restroom that was added a few years ago.
What a difference a year makes. "Before, we had parents take their kids behind the annex to go to the bathroom where it was muddy and cold," Money said. "We never could have afforded to do this on our own. It is expensive to bring in water and add a sanitary sewer line."
Several companies donates services or supplies, starting with John Freeman of Consolidated Supply whose firm has provided lots of support and donations to the Closet. "John has a heart of gold, and I asked him if Consolidated Supply could help," she said. "By the end of the week, he had fixtures set aside. We put something on Facebook asking if anyone knew an architect."
From there Nathan Clifford of Mead & Hunt, which provides consulting services in architecture, engineering and planning, did the initial plan, followed by the final plans completed by Sid Scott of Scott Edwards Architecture
Money called Shawn Mitchell, executive director, minister and contractor for Catalyst NW, whose non-profit company does some charity projects every year, and he agreed to take it on.
"Late last fall I thought we could finally do it and put it on the calendar for spring this year, and it started in May," Money said. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And we never could have done this without the support of the Tigard-Tualatin School District, who supported us every step of the way."
TTSD spokesperson Susan Stark Hayden said, "This makes me embarrassed that this was not done before. This program is so great for our kids."
Money noted that "we could not do this job without everyone here." She added, "This was a small project as far as square footage, but there were a lot of pieces to it."
She praised King City resident Darlene Loomer, who has volunteered at the Closet since retiring nearly seven years ago and was instrumental in coordinating the project. "She pours her heart and soul into this place every week," Money said. "We could not run this place without her."
Money also thanked Ryan Venne of Venne Plumbing. "He was the one who donated the largest financial part of the project, and we couldn't have done it without him," she said.
Besides handing out special Caring Closet plaques to each of the principle contributors, Money had one made for the laundry room that reads, "Caring Closet, many hands, countless hours, and lots of love have built this place. October 2017."
People may drop off donations at the Caring Closet, located at 9000 S.W. Durham Road, Tigard, on Wednesdays or Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, visit ttsdschools.org/Page/7820 or call 503-431-5400.