Our community has been allowed a wonderful opportunity to help provide clothing for families in need.

With awareness of the need and a partnership between the United Way and the South Dakota Human Services Center, Yankton’s Clothing Closet began in March 2004.

This program provides free clothing to approximately 300 families per year.

I talked with people involved with the program about its history and upcoming changes. Lauren Hanson, Executive Director of United Way of Greater Yankton;

Shauna Kauth, United Way Board President, and Frani Kieffer, Executive Director of Servant Hearts Clinic gave me their insight.

The Clothing Closet, currently located on the South Dakota Human Services Center (HSC) campus, serves community members in need as well as clients and patients within the facility. When the Clothing Closet began, United Way was a part of the original concept and worked closely with HSC in creating a voucher program, allowing community members to obtain clothing vouchers at specific local service organizations. On average, over 1,200 vouchers are distributed annually.

Due to increase in need of this assistance in our community, a more accessible location for the Clothing Closet was desired, including additional manpower to help serve their patrons’ needs. Servant Hearts Clinic stepped in to help with this need, providing part of their building at 232 Capital Street for the new space.

Servant Hearts Clinic, initiated in 2012, is a free clinic providing services to those in need, free of charge, including medications on a limited basis. The Clinic is open on Monday evenings. In 2017, their Board of Directors decided to purchase their current building at 3rd & Capital. Though they now own the building that stretches from 232 Capital Street to 203 E 3rd Street, they only use a portion with their clinic.

Frani Kieffer explains, “since we bought it, we’ve known we want to do something with it, to really continue to help our clients and our patients and also the other people in the community.” When they were approached by the United Way about a new Clothing Closet location, they found it a perfect opportunity.

“Partnering with Servant Hearts Clinic was a natural fit, it just made a lot of sense,” added Shauna Kauth.

Another benefit of the move is helping those that may have transportation difficulties in traveling to various agencies. The Clothing Closet will now be closer to Habitat for Humanity. Kauth explains, “It’s one of the concerns that we hear most often from people who are in need, that there are so many different places that they need to go or have needs with and being able to get to those places.”

Preparing for the Move

Hanson explains the process they’ve been working through to move to their new location at 203 E 3rd Street. The new space needed some renovating to best provide for their clients’ needs. Walls to knock down, basement renovation, upgrading the stairs and installing an ADA ramp are just a few of the changes necessary. This process has been a team effort of many.

Through a nomination process, the 100 Women of Yankton awards a gift to one local project annually by vote of its members. The Clothing Closet had recently been awarded a $14,100 gift from this group. Hanson explains how every dollar of this gift is being used toward renovation costs of the building. The Yankton Community Foundation also helped with renovations, investing money toward the ADA ramp.

“Those two entities to come together to fund this project is the only way it could have happened,” Hanson states.

The United Way has had a Heart Club Committee for many years. The main role of this committee was to support the United Way with their community campaign. The group of approximately nine members have helped with program changes to be made in construction, revamping and organization. Distribution of the clothing will also be provided by this committee, a crucial role in the efficiency of the Clothing Closet.

Kieffer comments, “We have a very generous Heart Club steering committee that has volunteered to step up and be the original source of those consistent volunteers during distribution time.”

The United Way has been gathering partners to assist in moving the Clothing Closet from North Yankton to the Meridian District in downtown Yankton. They are also looking into how much staff is needed to help with the new location and how to keep HSC’s campus closet running smoothly as well. They will need additional assistance with the set up of the donations, but they already have ideas to find help.

They would like to engage more of the community in the project. Hanson explains, “We are going to try to incorporate groups to come and help, similar to how the Food for Thought/Sack Pack program is run.” Volunteers would be able to come in weekly to help sort and set up. The distribution team will remain the same staff members, helping to give their clients a familiar face and welcome environment when they visit.

“It’s a great opportunity for other groups to get involved and learn the impact of the program and how they can help. I think there’s a lot of groups looking for opportunities to get involved and I think this a really hands on, impactful way,” Hanson explains.

Anticipated Opening and Program Changes

The United Way’s goal is to re-open at the new location this spring, possibly in April. Because of the generous gift from the 100 Women of Yankton, they will have a wall dedicated to them. They will be working on another project with local partners to later provide nicer work clothes for the Closet.

The revamping of the Clothing Closet also includes streamlining their voucher system. Instead of paper vouchers, they will be using a computerized database to track their visitors, increasing the program’s efficiency.

Hanson explains one of the changes that will take place with the new location. “We will not be collecting clothing all the time.” Due to the smaller space that they are moving into, they are restructuring the collection to include four clothing drives, one for each season. Hopefully this will help community members to clean out their closet with each season and share their unused clothing with the Closet. They are also looking to ask some of their partnering agencies to host clothing drives as needed, for instance if they are low on socks, asking these agencies to help host a sock drive to fill their needs.

Maintaining A Relationship

Kauth explains that the Clothing Closet will remain on the HSC campus with regular distribution until the new facility is ready to open. They anticipate a seamless move with no interruptions in services. After the Closet relocates, HSC will continue to maintain their own clothing program for patients. United Way and The Clothing Closet program will continue to maintain a strong relationship with HSC, allowing them the opportunity to gather items from the Closet as needed.

With the transition, United Way will fiscally sponsor the Clothing

Closet, funding the annual expenses and support staff needed to manage the program. Historically, the Closet on the HSC campus had never been a funded partner of United Way. Instead, it was a volunteer run, community donated program, managed by HSC staff.

Grateful to Those Involved

What surprised this group the most is the willingness of their partner agencies to work together to make things better in our community.

Kauth explains, “We’re always looking for ways to be more efficient and serve the public the way that we intend to serve them, and that’s what is important in all of this. The partnerships with the other agencies have just been the greatest part of all of this.”

Hanson adds, “All the partners coming together for the common good of the families that need this service working together to make this happen is really inspiring and I think really a great model of what partnerships are and what community means.”

The group would like to thank the following parties involved in the program’s success: The HSC for their incredible outreach and for providing the service to the community for as many years as they have, and their continued partnership with the United Way in maintaining the mission of the closet; 100 Women of Yankton; the Servant Hearts Clinic and the Yankton Community Foundation. They also give thanks to some of the local contractors for their help with construction: Kevin Bender from Welfl Construction, Ryan List from List Electric, and Keith Sudbeck from Sudbeck Painting. They have been great mentors and guides while providing exceptional service. Kauth gave a huge thank you to Hanson and her staff for the vision of this project and taking this endeavor on, putting much time and effort into it.

The HSC shows their appreciation for the project. Tia Kafka, Communications Director, states, “HSC greatly appreciates the hard work and support of the United Way of Greater Yankton, Servant Hearts Clinic, and 100 Women of Yankton. Throughout the process, the focus of this group has been to move the Community Voucher Program of the Clothing Closet to a more accessible location without an interruption in services to those in need. We look forward to supporting the clothing needs of HSC patients and other community members who access the Clothing Closet’s services.”

Staying Informed

The United Way will continue to provide notification to the community via newspaper, radio, Facebook and other social media. They will distribute information to their affiliated agencies and partners. The store hours at their new location at 203 E 3rd Street are still in discussion but will most likely be Monday nights during the Servants Hearts Clinic hours.

They are looking for groups of volunteers to donate their time helping to set up, including families, youth groups and other committees in the community. If you are interested in assisting with this project, please contact the United Way at (605) 665-6766, email Lauren Hanson at or visit their website at www.yanktonunited