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City of Renton gives away thousands of masks to community members

Renton firefighters hand out packs of 10 washable face masks to residents on Wednesday afternoon. (Nicole Jennings/KIRO Radio)

In the past week, Renton’s Community Services Department has given away 12,000 free masks to residents in need.

Now that face coverings are mandatory statewide when in public, the city wanted to make sure everyone had access to them. A grant from King County helped the city purchase 20,000 masks, some of which were given to local businesses through the Renton Chamber of Commerce.

The rest are going to residents; families can line up in their cars Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings at the Renton Community Center to receive packs of 10 masks from Renton Community Services Department members, firefighters, elected leaders, and volunteers.

Maryjane Van Cleave, Recreation and Neighborhoods director at the Renton Community Services Department, said that on July 2, the first day of the giveaway, 425 cars showed up, receiving 4,250 masks.

“We just thought this was a great way to continue to help the community to be safe,” Van Cleave said. “We’ve had a really positive response.”

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Many of the people driving up Wednesday afternoon expressed their thanks to the city for holding the giveaway. Renton mom Dari said she has had trouble finding face coverings for the whole family within their budget.

“We do have one set, but they’re pretty pricey, so that’s why I heard about this and I decided to come over … I really appreciate it, it’s a lot of help,” she said.

Another resident named Guang was grabbing masks to take to his 80-year-old parents in Seattle, so they don’t have to go out in public to get masks.

Renton City Council members like Kim-Khanh Van have heard from constituents that it can be hard to obtain masks, as they are such a hot commodity.

“With the mask mandate, some of our community members can’t just afford to buy masks,” said Van, who was helping to hand out masks on Wednesday. “And if you are able to afford it, as you can see from other online sources, it’s scarcity at this point … so there’s a huge need in our community.”

The mask giveaway takes place Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Renton Community Center, located at 1715 Maple Valley Highway, and will take place until supplies run out. Van Cleave said the popularity of the giveaway and the great need in the community means the mask supply will run dry soon, but the city is working with the county to attain more.

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