August 21, 2008 in Voices

Our Place gets makeover, new service

Newly remodeled facility now offers free laundry
By The Spokesman-Review
 
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON photo

Barbara Bishop folds laundry at Our Place Community Ministries Tuesday. A $270,000-renovation was just completed at the facility, and after suveying its clients, found that laundry was the most important service they could offer.
(Full-size photo)

At a glance

Our Place, 1509 W. College Ave., is open for food bank, clothing and other assistance on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and the last Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations are being sought. To contact the agency, call 326-7267

Our Place Community Ministries, which has served the West Central Neighborhood for 21 years, has just completed a $270,000 remodeling and expansion that includes something different in its mission to help the poor: a free laundry facility for low-income residents.

“It’s an awesome deal,” said Tom Wrenn as he waited for his clothes to dry last week. He said the free laundry saves him about $30 a month, which is a big help as he lives on part-time wages.

Two commercial-capacity washers and four commercial dryers were placed in a room at the front of the nonprofit charity at 1509 W. College Ave. Residents can schedule a time or call ahead to see if washers are available. Vikki Jones of the Our Place staff keeps the wash moving and helps people arrange times.

“We want people to feel like they can just drop in,” Jones said.

For West Central residents who don’t have laundry facilities, the nearest Laundromat is at Indiana Avenue and Monroe Street, making the Our Place washers and dryers the closest location for getting the clothes clean.

A free laundry room was identified in client surveys as a big need in the neighborhood, which prompted the addition to Our Place, which continues to provide food, hygiene supplies, housing assistance, clothing and cooking classes.

The agency recently made shoes available to schoolchildren through a grant from the charitable foundation of former Seattle Mariners pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen Moyer.

The Our Place clothing bank was scheduled to reopen today in a converted warehouse portion of the facility.

“Our Place is really the village in action,” said Jenifer Priest, development director.

The remodeling and expansion resulted from a series of grants and individual donations, including help from the Gates and Murdoch foundations.

Church congregations also contributed to the upgrades, which were completed in three phases. Contractor Eric Hyman and his brother, Glen Hyman, did the architectural design and construction.

The improvements come at a time when the needs of low-income residents are increasing in Spokane as the result of a nationwide economic slowdown and the closure of St. Vincent de Paul’s Family Service Center in Spokane in January.

Sister Ann Pizello, a co-director of Our Place, said, “This has been a dream for a long time.”

The nonprofit opened in 1987 in a house at 1018 N. Elm St. when pastors in the neighborhood sought a way to help the area’s poor residents. By 2000, Our Place was providing charitable help to clients nearly 20,000 times a year. More recently, the number of client contacts has been about 15,000 a year.

In 2001, Our Place moved to its present location but occupied only half of the facility, renting out the other half. The expansion project allows the agency to take over the former rental space for its programs.

A small kitchen and classroom facility may become the site of an increasing number of life skills classes, including a possible GED program, Our Place officials said.

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