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Meeting students' needs; closet and pantry serves DPS

Dickinson Public School Board member Brent Seaks, left, and Superintendent Dr. Douglas Sullivan are given a preview of the newly opened Closet and Pantry by social worker Bethanie Krieg. (Linda Sailer/The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Dickinson Public Schools social worker Kristin Seaks helps Maria Silva pick out a dress for her daughter Sophia in the newly opened Closet and Pantry. (Linda Sailer/The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

Families enrolled in the Dickinson Public Schools have another option for stretching their grocery budget or finding shoes and school clothes for their growing children.

The Dickinson Public School District opened a Closet and Pantry  in the old Hagen building (north entrance) on May 1. The hours will be 1:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 9-11 a.m. Fridays  until a break for summer recess.

“The social workers deserve all the credit,” said Superintendent Dr. Douglas Sullivan. “They spent hundreds of hours in getting it ready.”

Sullivan and school board member Brent Seaks were given a tour of the pantry by social workers Kristin Seaks and Bethanie Krieg

“We have a number of students who have economic issues in their household, and this provides us with an opportunity to help them in a respectful way,” Sullivan added.

“What I’m impressed about  our district is when there’s a need, we address the need,” Brent Seaks said.  “Social workers are advocating for the needs of the children. All they want to do is help parents get the resources -- they want to make this work.”

Maria Silva came shopping with her 4-year-old daughter, Sophia, who is enrolled in Head Start.

While shopping,  Maria noted,”They really want to help me.”

The vision for the pantry started two years ago when Dr. Sullivan and Kristin Seaks attended a meeting of the Great Plains Food Bank.

“They talked about a pilot project in Fargo for a school pantry,” Seaks said. “Dr. Sullivan wanted me to check it out. The vision for the closet basically came from the social workers, because we saw families in need of clothing.”

The social workers learned the AMEN food pantry fills a food voucher once a month.

“We tried to communicate with House of Manna and the AMEN Food Pantry to see what models would work and trying to complement what they are doing,” added social worker Bethanie Krieg. “That’s where we can fill in and help them through the rest of the month.”

The school district has already developed partnerships.

“We’re reaching out to local grocery stories who will be willing to make donations to this effort. Our intention is to start next fall,” Sullivan said.

“I think it’s a great idea -- let’s see how it works,” Brent Seaks added. “Sometimes, you learn as you go. What I love too, is it works because the community is so generous.”

The social workers are reaching their families through newsletters, phone calls and on their web page. Their long-term goal is to find a volunteer coordinator.

“This is the month we’re getting our feet wet, we’re working out the kinks and will be ready to roll,” Kristin Seaks said.

During the summer months,  families may access the pantry and closet by calling Kristin Seaks at 690-5752.