Kasak?s loss impacts food pantry, staff perseveres with new manager

Michelle White

Michelle WhiteReporter

Don Kasak, former Brookings Food Pantry manager, passed away at the age of 75. Since then, the food pantry is trying to get back to its normal routine.

“Kasak worked at the food pantry for five years,” said Elva Gonzales, assistant manager at the food pantry.

During his five years at the food pantry, Kasak was able to make a difference.

“Don had an impact on so many people in Brookings, and on the whole Brookings County,” said Kathy Heylens, the food pantry’s co-chair for the board of directors.

Despite the loss of Kasak, there is still faith the food pantry will be able to overcome the obstacle.

“Even though the food pantry suffered a huge loss, I think they will still do a tremendous job,” said Curt Osmanski, HyVee Store Director.

He said he thinks the food pantry will carry on in Kasak’s memory.

The food pantry helped 797 families in 2008, 810 families in 2009 and 761 families from January to August this year, said Amy Lacek, the new food pantry manager.

“Amy is a great replacement,” Heylens said. “She brings new, positive things to the food pantry.”

Lacek said she thinks they will surpass 2009’s total by the end of September.

She said that while some people think the food pantry only gives unappealing and outdated food to low-income families, none of this is true.

“Nothing goes through that is outdated8212;unless it somehow slips through,” Lacek said. “We check every item . . . if we are not sure, we set it aside for someone else to double check.”

Lacek said HyVee, Boss’ Pizza and Chicken, Nick’s Hamburger Shop, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar and other businesses donate food to the food pantry.

“It is a shame to throw away a product that can be used by someone,” Osmanski said.

Gonzales and Lacek said families that come in for assistance leave with roughly $300 worth of groceries, but they can only come for assistance four times a year. The amount of groceries given to families is supposed to last them three weeks, Heylens said.

Anyone can volunteer, but Lacek said they encourage people who are physically able to stock shelves and/or are comfortable with people.

Last year, the SDSU Student Association and Aramark teamed up with the food pantry to create “Food Pantry Fridays.” Students with left over money on their meal plans at the end of the school year can donate money or food to the food pantry.

Heylens said it was a great program and she hopes it runs again this year.

Kate Wegehaupt, administrative assistant of the Students’ Association, said she hopes the program continues this year as well.

“We started it with the idea that it would be an annual occurrence,” Wegehaupt said.

To volunteer or make a donation, call 605-692-5007, or visit the food pantry at 217 1/2 Fourth Street.

Heylens said they are more than willing to accept monetary and food donations.

The Brookings Food Pantry is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1-5 p.m.

#1.1641427:2397257032.jpg:The Brookings Area Food Pantry, located at 217 1/2 Fourth Street.:The Brookings Area Food Pantry, located at 217 1/2 Fourth Street, looks forward to helping families through the tough economic times. The Pantry?s operation relies on volunteer service and monetary donations from the community, including leftover SDSU meal plan dollars donated by students.:Collegian Photo by Corey Morrow#1.1641428:3376629656.jpg:A staple of the Brookings community, the Food Pantry assisting families since its origination.:A staple of the Brookings community, the Food Pantry has been assisting families in need since its origination. :Collegian Photo by Corey Morrow