Today marks the launch of the Rapid City Area Schools Regifting Store, a new service for families who struggle to have adequate food and clothing.
The store is a community outreach that provides necessary items to people free of charge. The RCAS Regifting Store's grand opening is today from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Rapid City High School. Take the South Street exit off Fifth Street to 625 South St. and go in that entrance. Signs inside the building will direct people to the store.
Clothing for all ages, from infant through adult, is available. The store provides some housewares as well, such as rugs, drapes and shower curtains. Under the direction of its coordinator, Jeanne Burckhard-McKenna, volunteers have been loading up the store with clothing that's clean and in good condition.
"We're hoping (the store) is going to be jam-packed," she said. "We're going to keep restocking as people shop. We'll keep the store full."
The Regifting Store will be open on the first and third Tuesdays of the every month to coordinate with the food pantry at Rapid City High School. Feeding South Dakota and the school district partnered to offer the twice-monthly food pantry to families of students enrolled in the district. The pantry is open from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.; the Regifting Store will have slightly longer hours, from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
"Families can easily access groceries and clothing in one trip," Burckhard-McKenna said.
In response to their students' needs, many local schools already maintain a supply of food, deodorant, winter coats and other items, but the Regifting Store is more extensive, said Katy Urban, RCAS public information manager.
Burckhard-McKenna said the Regifting Store will be a resource for anyone in Rapid City and the surrounding area who needs assistance, such as senior citizens or college students with limited finances. The store will also be available to aid families who need to replace basic essentials after an emergency, such as a house fire, she said.
The Regifting Store is possible because of donations from the community and the support of local businesses and organizations. JC Penney donated hangers. Safeway provided a grocery cart people can use to transport items to their vehicles. The Clothes Mentor, Once Upon a Child and Plato's Closet have offered to donate clothing, and The Hope Center will pass along donations it is unable to use. Currently, Burckhard-McKenna said, she has so many donations in storage that she will not be able to accept more until March.
Burckhard-McKenna sees a growing need for services such as the Regifting Store. A former principal at North Middle School, she started the local school backpack program that provides food for kids in need on weekends. She's also a trained facilitator for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which studies how childhood trauma affects individuals — regardless of income — into adulthood.
"Our family dynamics have really changed. We're seeing more single-parent families; we're seeing more grandparents raising kids," Burckhard-McKenna said. "We're finding that we're getting a lot of fathers — all of a sudden they have their children and they have nothing. We had a grandma who all of a sudden had her grandchildren (living with her). She didn't have a car seat. She didn't have diapers."
Locally and nationwide, the poverty rate is rising, she said. According to Data USA, the poverty rate in Rapid City is 16.4 percent. The national poverty rate is 14 percent.
Resources such as the Regifting Store are lifelines for families in poverty, for whom spending even a couple of dollars for an item at a thrift store might be more than they can afford, Burckhard-McKenna said.
For more information about the Regifting Store, to donate items or to volunteer, call or text Jeanne Burckhard-McKenna at 801-231-3998.