Student supply service helping kids at school and home
By Robert Williams
Native American Education Program coordinator Dani Adams recently received a $1,000 Walmart Foundation Community Grant to support the Hornet Care Closet, a supply room in the student services office of the high school that is brimming with things students need from deodorant and basics to shoes and clothing.
“I sometimes feel like $1,000 isn’t a lot of money, but I can do a lot of stuff with $1,000 for kids,” said Adams. “I can buy a lot of food and get a lot of toiletries or go get a kid a new pair of tennis shoes if needed right now.”
The grant will be used as a buffer, given the current status of the closet, having been the benefactor of great support from the community. That support is allowing organizers to use the grant funds as needs arise.
“We’ve gotten great donations from organizations and amazing donations from individual people,” said science teacher and parent teacher organization (PTO) president Tavia Bachmann. “We’re getting a lot of toiletries and clothing items, but what if there is that one student that needs something that we don’t have in here? We now have that opportunity to say we have the funds to go get that for you.”
The Frazee-Vergas PTO is the fiscal agent for the Care Closet.
“Dani is 100 percent the spearheader of this and the PTO has accessibility to be able to have a non-profit organization that can take care of the funds coming in and going out,” said Bachmann. “We were able to make it work so the Hornet Care Closet is an entity of the PTO. I think, for us, it just fits because of the people that are involved—how can we make this work and how can we support it?”
Getting to the state where the closet is at a surplus of some items and is regularly providing things that kids need since opening last November is amazing considering what Adams and Bachmann had to begin the project.
“We started with nothing, literally nothing,” said Adams.
Adams began with donations of her own and with help from family and friends, one being Kayla Soland-Olson, who rallied her fellow employees from the Radiology Department at Essentia Health St. Mary’s to give the Care Closet a big boost last February.
“I had a full car full of donations,” Adams said. “We were able to stock the whole closet after that.”
Since then the word has gotten out about the project and the more people hear about the Hornet Care Closet the more they want to help.
“We’re getting checks in the mail from people who have heard about it and I had a person at church hand me a check,” said Bachmann.
Adams was formerly employed in the Detroit Lakes School District where they were doing something similar at the high school. The idea came to life quickly in Frazee with the backing of then principal Anna Potvin and Bachmann.
“Now it’s thriving,” said Adams. “Anything you need is in there.”
“I think right now we’re at a really good point,” said Bachmann. “We want to continue to provide quality stuff.”
One surprise is how often the closet is providing things that are really needed at home, like toilet paper. laundry soap or basics like socks, new towels, sheets or blankets.
“That’s an expense that families have,” said Bachmann.
“We went through a ton of socks last year,” said Adams.
School counselor Ta Fett works out of the office next to the closet and sees first-hand how much the closet has a positive effect on kids. In the early going, Fett would take a photo of kids getting what they needed to make sure organizers knew how much they were helping.
“I just leave the kids in there and I always tell them to take laundry detergent because it’s expensive and something they don’t think about,” said Fett. “People don’t always see that we have homeless kids too; they’re on their own, couch-hopping or whatever they’re doing. That’s tough.”
Fett noted specifically the benefit that the Care Closet has on not just individual students but how it can be a big help at home for families.
“It’s been great; it’s the best thing ever” Fett said. “I don’t think people always understand what families who are struggling really go through and what kids go through. They don’t get regular meals and are sometimes here looking to help their younger siblings. I just think that’s important.”
Adams and Bachmann both are working hard to keep the Care Closet momentum going and encourage people to keep helping students anyway they can.
“We live in a tight-knit community where people want to support kids,” said Adams.
To make donations contact Adams or Bachmann at the school, or check out the project’s Amazon wish list: www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/ 3H6574GVZC46A?ref_=wl_share