Nearly 500 people have been served over the past year with emergency financial aid and free clothing vouchers, thanks to the re-opening of Forks Disaster Relief funded by the local clothing bank.
“We’re thrilled to meet and support the clients we’ve had since relaunching in October 2021, and to make a meaningful difference in the quality of life here in Forks,” said Ms. Layla Rawls, director of the non-profit. “We’ve helped families with kids who’ve lost everything to fire, folks who suffered flood damage, and more. That’s over $11,400 in free clothing vouchers and $6,500 in financial aid.”
Quick response is key, according to Ms. Sena Engeseth, a board member. “Sometimes cash for gas is the barrier between making it for surgery or not. Our role is to fill the gaps between a crisis and the support services offered by other local state and federal agencies, working in partnership.”
Funds for this aid come from sales at Ginger’s Closet, the local clothing bank. The shop provides access to low-cost clothing and home textiles, with all shoppers welcome.
Donated clothing and emergency assistance for families have an intertwined history in Forks. In 1955, a Disaster Relief Committee was established under the Forks Community Council. The Committee operated on small grants for many years. The process changed in 1976 when a local family of eight lost their home in a fire. The community turned out a huge outpouring of support, including many articles of clothing. Good clothing that the family could not use was returned to Ginger Haberman, the chair of the Disaster Relief Committee at the time, and Ginger stored it in her own home.
For the next few years, people could drop off and those who needed it could pick up clothing from Ginger’s home. Gradually, that project morphed into the clothing bank, with a dedicated space now at 181 Bogachiel Way.
Operations closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But in October 2021, the shop and Relief committee was re-launched by Layla Rawls, Sena Engeseth, Dave Youngberg, Char Weston, and Heather Lietzke. In honor of Ginger Haberman, the shop has been renamed Ginger’s Closet.
“We still provide clothes and home textiles for free to those who need them, and we’ve developed a thrift shop component that provides funding to pay the rent and keep the lights on but also to let us offer a range of services,” said Rawls. “We’re the entity on call when disaster strikes, so we’re building up our response reserve.”
The shop is entirely supported by donations of clothing, footwear, accessories, and home textiles. Volunteers and one part-time staff member maintain the inventory, which ranges from clothes for kids to adults, swimwear to winter coats, sportswear to business professional, home linens, and beyond. All are welcome to shop from 12 noon to 4 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Forks Disaster Relief serves the local community through:
• vouchers for low-income residents and those recovering from crisis, providing clothing and home textiles (application-based, $25 per household member every 6 months);
• emergency financial assistance for those facing a crisis (application-based);
• emergency warming packs for those without housing—37 emergency warming packs have been handed out to date in the winter of 2022/23, a value of $1,110;
• learning opportunities through free clothing repair workshops held the first Wednesday of each month, with free access to tools like sewing machines to fix a favorite garment; and
• reduction of textile waste, providing a sustainable alternative for purchasing and directing unsellable garments to a textile recycling stream, keeping clothes out of landfills.
Overseeing the operations of Forks Disaster Relief/Clothing Bank is the board, which has now grown to 10 members; Layla Rawls- President, Sena Engeseth-Vice President, Kelly McConnell- Treasurer, Tiffany Straza-Secretary and Dave Youngberg, Char Weston, Linda Wells, Desi Dilley, Lori Crippen, Nichole King are all members at large.
“The best way to help Forks Disaster Relief is to spread the word about what we provide because in times of crisis, people act on what they already know or they turn to friends,” said Tiffany Straza-Secretary. “And of course to support us financially, please come enjoy the shopping at Ginger’s Closet.”
For questions or more information contact information is – firstname.lastname@example.org, (360)374-2565.