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Helping Hands helps local families prepare for school


August 23, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Helping Hands volunteer Murell Barnett, left, provides gift cards to local parent Rocio Ramos to help with school supplies on Aug. 19.

Arlington thrift store Helping Hands gave away more than $2,000 this month to a couple dozen area families to help them with school supplies..

On Aug. 19 the nonprofit thrift store handed out the bulk of its Walmart gift cards to registered families from Stanwood, Marysville, Smokey Point and Darrington.

"We satisfy the needs of a lot of families in the area with these gift cards," said Korene Thomas, a volunteer at the store.

A total of $2,250 was set aside by the thrift store for families.

Helping Hands has provided gift cards for a number of years to local families, who can receive up to four $25 cards, one for each child.

"The shoppers that come in regularly, we recognize them and we sign them up," said Thomas.

The cards are meant for school supplies but can be used on anything to support the family during the run-up to school returning.

"It can be clothes or school stuff or whatever," said volunteer Murell Barnett.

"We provide that little help to get them started," said Thomas.

Local parents said that the gift cards help with the return to school.'

"It helps for the school," said local Alecea Cabeanao.

"It's good for the kids," said local Rocio Ramos, who added that school supplies lists are expensive these days.

Thomas said that the program is popular with many local families.

"They start asking during the Fourth of July about signing up because it's a good thing for them," she said.

The school supply requirements have increased over the last several years, said Thomas.

"The communities are realizing that the school is asking for so many things. It used to be you just went to school with your lunch bucket and now you bring Kleenexes, your paper and pencil, and you have to have this many pencils and that many ink pens," she said.

"If you're buying for four children, it can add up in a hurry," she said.

Thomas said she likes giving out gift cards and working as a volunteer because it helps her interact with locals.

"I like just meeting the community," she said.

Barnett said the program is a good way for Helping Hands to give directly back to the specific families they serve.

"It gives back to our main customers," she said. "They can come in and shop and still get something from us."

Arlington's Helping Hands store has been open since 1972 with a mission of serving the community.

"Any donations that come in are available to shoppers, and the money goes back to the community," said Thomas.

The all-volunteer run store donates funds to many local organizations each year, including the Arlington Food Bank, the Arlington Boys & Girls Club and high school band programs.

"It all gets back to the best organizations that we can help in the community," said Thomas.

The store also organizes specific efforts to help families, like their gift card giveaway for school supplies and sponsoring families around Christmas-time.

More information about the local thrift store can be found at


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