Staff Reporter 

Community comes through for Cleone's Closet


Last updated 11/23/2020 at 10:58am

AIRWAY HEIGHTS – When Mable Dunbar received a call from manager Jimmy Suckow that the purple 1994 Chevy pickup truck Cleone’s Closet Food Pantry uses to transport food was stolen on Oct. 20, she wasn’t happy.

After all, the truck was the food pantry’s primary means of getting goods from Second Harvest Food Bank and grocery stores that donate food, such as Yoke’s and Walmart. The truck was also, on occasion, used to deliver food to needy people in the community.

Suckow notified the police department, who launched an investigation, but for the time being, the truck was lost.

But then, members of the community stepped up to help the food pantry affiliated with the Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network (WHEN).

“I alerted some different people, and we put on Facebook that it was stolen,” Dunbar, the president of Cleone’s Closet, said. “Then a couple of people were concerned, and then they put it on their (own) Facebook pages.”

The Airway Heights Baptist Church offered their bus, free of charge, to use while the truck was missing. Dunbar was thankful for the gesture and willingly accepted the bus as a temporary measure, but acknowledged the bus isn’t a long-term solution, since it can’t fit wooden pallets inside that can transport food.

Meanwhile, four days later, a man named Aaron Castor, of Spokane, notified the police department that he saw the truck at the Albertson’s location on East 57th Avenue on Spokane’s South Hill. He confirmed the license plate, but then a man entered the truck and drove away before Castor could take further action, according to the police report.

The next day, Dunbar and Suckow were notified that the truck was found by Washington State Patrol on I-90 at milepost 297 near the Washington/Idaho state line. The suspect, who is a 16-year-old male according to the police report, was apprehended.

Dunbar and Suckow went to retrieve the vehicle and had to tow it, since it wouldn’t start. They brought it to Suckow’s house, where a mechanic investigated the truck free of charge.

He delivered some bad news.

“He came and looked at the truck and said, ‘it’s not worth fixing,’” Dunbar said.

One resident called KHQ about the situation. The Spokane-based television news station did a news story highlighting Cleone’s Closet and the stolen truck.

After seeing the story, a local man, Mike Ellis, who frequently highlights community needs and businesses serving the area in a city residents Facebook group, reached out to Dunbar.

“He called me and asked if he could make his truck available,” Dunbar said. “He helped us to bring a load of food here, and then he started talking.”

“He said, ‘you know, I know somebody who might be willing to donate a security system to you guys,’” she added.

Ellis reached out to owner Michael Crouse of Total Security, Inc. in Spokane. Crouse agreed to donate and install an alarm system to Cleone’s Closet so that future break-ins and thefts could be prevented.

“Our motivation was to help people and help the community,” Crouse said.

“(Cleone’s Closet) is a worthy non-profit,” he added.

Dunbar said she was thrilled to receive the alarm system.

“It was very encouraging, very surprising, and also, in a sense, overwhelming,” Dunbar said. “One of the things Mike (Ellis) said was, ‘Mable, people need to know what you guys are doing…’ for me, that was just an amazing thing, that he saw the need and that the community needed to know about it.”

The community support didn’t stop there. One businessman, who preferred to remain anonymous, came to Dunbar and suggested that she start a fundraiser to try and raise $10,000 toward the purchase of a new truck.

“We’re trying to get a decent truck that will last,” Dunbar said.

The businessman got the donations going with a $100 gift. A subsequent $100 gift then came in.

“We got $200 (right away) without even advertising it,” Dunbar said.

The 92nd Security Forces Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base caught wind of the situation and made a $250 donation. Altogether, $750 was raised before an official fundraiser even began.

Those interested in donating can do so on the WHEN website. The organization hopes to raise $10,000 by Jan. 29, 2021.

Drew Lawson can be reached at


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