Honors Colloquium students push Jack’s Cupboard further by adding warm clothes


Trenton Abrego, Editor-in-Chief

Kas Williams, the chief diversity officer at South Dakota State University, entered an Honors Colloquium classroom with what she calls her “normal spiel” from the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

When she left, her words resonated with students.

Miranda Book, a junior human biology and pre-dental double major, and her group members were tasked with an assignment: select an issue of inequity on campus that needed to be addressed.

Book and her classmates came up with five ideas before eventually choosing one: Jack’s Closet.

The concept is the same as Jack’s Cupboard, which opened Nov. 19, 2018, in order to “combat food insecurity by ensuring those students who struggle financially to purchase food.”

“We kind of wanted to pair it with [Jack’s Cupboard], cause that’s already kind of established and people know what it means,” Book said.

After Book and her group members hashed out their ideas, they reached out to Williams.

According to Williams, the idea had been discussed before but had logistical concerns.

“Other folks had asked about [Jack’s Closet] in the past, but we always kind of turned it down because we didn’t have the space for it,” Williams said.

Jack’s Closet also faced another obstacle: upkeep of the coats.

“You have to clean them, prepare them, get them ready to go, it’s a whole process behind the scenes to make sure they are prepared for students,” Williams said.

After the logistical concerns were addressed, the group moved forward with the idea.

“I told them, ‘Let’s start small … We are coming up on winter and a lot of students need winter gear whatever, so let’s start with coats first and see what that would look like,’ and they were like ‘Yes, let’s do it,’” Williams said.

Once the program got rolling and collection bins were dispersed throughout campus, the word got out.

“We thought it would just kind of be something small,” Book said. “We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us and a lot of support from just all over campus.”

According to Book, there have been more than 60 coats, 10 hats, 10 pairs of gloves, six pairs of boots and a few scarves collected by Jack’s Closet. The success that the program has seen thus far hasn’t surprised Williams.

“We got boots, steel-toed boots, mittens, hats, it’s like winter gear people just started donating,” Williams said. “It’s cold now — students need help.”

According to Williams, the program has expanded beyond the reaches of the SDSU campus and into the Brookings community.

“When you do good stuff and it becomes a community service effort, everybody gets behind it,” Williams said. “I don’t even think the students even realized that they tapped into something that everyone wants to be a part of.”

With the success that Jack’s Closet has seen, the program will be expanding in the future, according to Williams.

“So the Jack’s Closet was just for winter coats, but it was a test run to see if we really wanted to turn it into Jack’s Closet, and now that we see the need is out there, we have to turn it into a closet, like there’s no other choice in doing that,” Williams said.