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Staying warm this winter: Dickinson schools' pantry and closet filled with winter wear

Winter apparel valued at $19,000 will be distributed to Dickinson Public Schools’ students at the schools’ pantry and closet because local citizens and businesses care about children.

“Basically, the closet is intended for students in need who attend Dickinson Public Schools,” said Kristin Seaks, one of five social workers who help oversee the closet. “It fills in the gaps. During the winter, you think you have an adequate coat and the zipper breaks, your snow boots become too small. The soles of your shoes fall off. You lose a glove…”

Kathryn Rich collected $5,000 in donations and  multiplied them with coupons and sales promotions at JCPenney in Bismarck. Rich, along with her mother, her daughter Harper, and Kristin, made a trip to Bismarck with two cars.

“I first called JC Penny, saying I had $5,000 and how can I get the the best deal -- could I use coupons, could I use cards,” Rich said. “Yes, yes, yes .. they were on board. They were already running a 50 percent special off, and running a mystery sale for an additional 50 percent off. I opened up a JC Penny card for an additional 25 percent off. We ended up getting about $19,000 worth of stuff for $3,200… we saved 77 percent with the coupons.”

Rich and Seaks packed both vehicles with winter wear, and its ready for distribution at the closet.  There is no charge. The pantry/closet at the Hagen building is opened by a referral from a social worker or teacher.

How it started

The winter apparel project is credited to three-year-old Harper Rich, who, last year,  saw a student who wasn’t wearing a coat and wondered if her mom could buy him one. That simple request resulted in $25,000 worth of apparel purchased from Herberger’s through a $5,000 community donation, along with coupons and sales promotions. The coats were distributed in December of 2017.

This year, Harper said, “Mom are we going to buy coats again?”

“Actually yes,” Rich told Harper. “Do do you want to come and get them?”

“Harper was so excited. She put the shoes and boots in the carts and helped us carry them out to the cars.”

“Last year, many people didn’t know the need,” Rich continued. “A lot of people didn’t realize kids were not dressed properly -- they didn’t realize people were going without because they couldn’t afford it…. Last year, we did this when it was snowing --  when we realized that kids were so underdressed; now we’re ready for them.”

Rich, who works for Parke Investment Management,  started with a donation from her boss, Mike Parke. She went on to receive donations from Jerry Schwartz, Molly Schwartz and Rick Hinkle, owners of Jerry D. Schwartz Construction; Kristi and Randy Schwartz; Justin and Jackie Olson, owners of Just-In Glass; and Brady and Mariah Boese of Boese Image Builders. Other donors opted not to reveal their names.

What’s next

There’s still about $1,800 remaining from the donations that Rich received. Those funds will be used to purchase winter accessories such as mittens and gloves. There’s also a good assortment of adult-sized coats for the parents of students.

Any food items picked up at the pantry also are intended to fill in the gaps.

“The schools are continuing to do food drives to stock the shelves --some of the schools choose the AMEN Food pantry, but we have a nice partnership.”

The pantry/closet is pretty well stocked at the moment, said Seaks. “The cupboards are stocked with school supplies, but we still need mittens and gloves.”

To help with ongoing needs at the pantry and closet, call 701-590-6648 to learn how to make a donation.