Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Success of BHSU Free Store stretches capacity of Student Union location

Noah Westerguaard
BHSU Free Store is Quickly Outgrowning its Current Space

Last year, Black Hills State University opened a campus Free Store, which provides clothing, household items, school supplies and food to anyone in need. Since opening, the store has made a positive impact on students and the campus community, leading to the store’s own growth

Kate Shelton, a graduate student at BHSU working towards a master’s degree in sustainability, got involved with the Free Store through the sustainability department. A student in the sustainability department, Lorraine Coronato, started the Free Store after studying student demographics and sustainability during an internship.

“[She] saw a need within the student community where a free store would be a great resource that you could come in and just take whatever you needed and then you can also give back,” Shelton said.

At the beginning the store only had four students employed, but has since expanded to having thirteen students on staff. The additional staff was necessary due to a significant amount of donations and student interest. The store’s operating schedule was also increased from two days a week to Monday through Friday to accommodate the increase demand. Some of the main focuses of the store are to provide anyone with anything that they might need and to promote reusing items rather than throwing them away.

“Our main goal is deficiently student need, but as we are the sustainability department, we want to promote reusing [and] recycling,” said Maryfrances Bruce, a student lead for the Free Store. “We are just trying to reuse what people already have.”

One of the ways that the Free Store has impacted the student body is by providing students with winter coat. South Dakota has harsh winters with freezing temperatures that seemingly hit without notice. Many international students and students from warmer climates do not realize how cold the winters in Spearfish can get. The Free Store was able to provide coats and other winter clothing last year.

“Last year it was really helpful that we had winter coats,” Bruce said.

As of right now, the store has been saving coats in preparation for the upcoming winter season. Alongside clothing, the store also supplies household goods, feminine products and some food. One of the goals is to provide anything that a student might need.

“A lot of students come here and they’ll need things for the semester, especially students that are coming from abroad,” Shelton said. “Nonperishable food we’re able to take, it’s a lot of clothing, household products and school stuff mostly.”

After the Free Store became a reality, it quickly outgrew the space it currently inhabits. That has created an issue in that donations are difficult to accept due to the lack of space.

The operators of the Free Store want to move into a larger location on campus so it will be able to take more donations and provide a more comfort space for students, staff and donors.

For the donation process, the staff sort through donated items to make sure they are in good condition and suitable for students. Since the staff are also students, they know what items college students may want or find useful. With more staff now, it makes it easier to gather a variety of clothing items and household goods based on several different tastes.

The store also provides employment opportunities to students, and anyone is welcome to volunteer. Although the Free Store is primarily directed towards students, anyone is welcome to shop or donate to the store.

“We are opened to the entire community, but we try to focus on students,” Bruce said. “Some people in the community drop off stuff or pick up things.”

Free Store staff prefer that people wanting to donate contact them ahead of time to make sure they have the space for donations, although they hope that is only a temporary issue. Any donations are greatly appreciated.

“We appreciate that people know us and want to help other people,” Bruce said. “Because every time you bring something in you are telling us ‘I want to help someone.’”