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Deer Park’s GreenHouse turns 1

Customers shop at the GreenHouse Community Center in Deer Park last Thursday. The Center provides food, education, counseling, clothing and emergency help. 
 (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)
Customers shop at the GreenHouse Community Center in Deer Park last Thursday. The Center provides food, education, counseling, clothing and emergency help. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)

DEER PARK – The GreenHouse Community Center, which reaches more than 1,000 clients a month, is ready to do a little celebrating.

On Saturday, the center is marking its first year of operation in its new quarters at 12 W. First St. in the heart of Deer Park with a luncheon and entertainment.

The event, including live music and a fashion show, is being held at the Eagles in Deer Park from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets for the family event are $10.

“It’s pretty amazing what we’ve done here in a year,” said Susan Peterson, the chief executive officer of the center and its only full-time employee. The center has two part-time workers and a small army of volunteers.

One of those volunteers is David Gore, a Deer Park High School junior. “It’s all for a good cause and everything,” he said.

Operating out of an old feed store along the town’s railroad tracks, the center includes a thrift store, food bank, clothing bank, counseling center and classroom.

Programs involve partnerships with several agencies and the support of churches, businesses, retirees and clients. GreenHouse is a great example of a community banding together to help low-income and vulnerable residents. At times it must seem like everyone in Deer Park is pitching in.

For example, Saturday’s luncheon is being prepared and served by members of the Open Door Congregational Church. Mural paintings on the thrift store walls were done by a high school-age artist. Faith Lutheran Church sponsors emergency food deliveries. The list of partners is long.

Last week, four women from AARP showed up with donations.

“This is the kind of stuff that makes your eyes water,” said Dave Swett, a volunteer, as the women made their delivery.

Including Swett, volunteers donate some 1,400 hours of work each month, whether its bagging groceries or stocking shelves.

For many low-income residents, the center is a lifeline. Along with the food and clothing banks, the center provides subsidies for heat and light bills, emergency housing help, mental health and behavioral counseling, career path services, general equivalence degree education, recycling, a life-skills class for disabled persons, a cooking class, and a “green” living class.

Peterson said she wants women to know that the clothing selection is stylish and affordable, which is part of the reason for including a fashion show in Saturday’s luncheon. “We want the word out about what nice clothes we have,” she said.

Having programs for low-income residents in Deer Park and the surrounding countryside is even more important now with the escalating cost of fuel, Peterson said.

“We have a huge rural population that economically can’t go to Spokane for every service,” she said.

The center is in discussions with state social services officials about establishing a site at the center where foster children can have visits with their biological parents.

Bob Renner, an educator, runs the GED program as a volunteer, and had 14 graduates in the past year. He takes a no-nonsense approach to his students. More than two unexcused absences and a student is taken out of the program and placed back on a waiting list.

“If they don’t perform, he boots them out,” Swett said.

The GreenHouse was founded in 1987 at Zion Lutheran Church in Deer Park and made the move away from the church in 2007 to be able to expand. The new center has three times the space it previously had. It is now incorporated and registered as a tax-exempt organization.

The need for GreenHouse has become even more critical with January’s closing of St. Vincent de Paul family center in Spokane, Swett said.

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