SEATTLE -- The Salvation Army will close four thrift stores in Western Washington so it can focus resources on its big store in Seattle.

Stores in Burien, Renton and Puyallup will close by September 10. A fourth store in Sumner will close by the end of this week.

There were a couple of the stores that there were months they weren't even covering the cost of their own operation, said Maj. Ralph Hood, special projects coordinator forThe Salvation Army.

Sales from the retail stores, also calledFamily Stores,help fund the organization's Adult Rehabilitation Program (ARC), which helps peoplebattling drug and alcohol abuse. By focusing resources on the Seattle store, The Salvation Army hopes to keep the rehab center running.

The bigger picture is the center, the smaller picture is the individual stores being closed, Hood said.

Customers who were shopping Tuesday at the Sumner store, where many items were 75 percent off, were disappointed by the news.

I'm sad, said Angela Kelly, a stay-at-home mother with three kids. It has been here a long time and we shop here often to get good deals.

In all, 22 employees will be affected by the closures, including Claudia Rosengard, who has worked for The Salvation Army for 22 years, including 14 years at the Sumner store.

I'm going to miss it terribly, Rosengard said. Just because you don't make a lot of money doesn't mean you can't be rich at heart.

Those 22 employees can apply for other jobs within The Salvation Army, which,as a religious organization,does not have to pay into unemployment insurance but does have retirement benefits.

Rosengard hopes to work part-time forThe Salvation Armya few more years before retiring.

It has been a great ride, she said. I wouldn't change it for the world.

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