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Meet Jolene Winters & Julie Jerick

Meet Jolene Winters and Julie Jerick.Babby

They each have five children. Julie has one more on the way. They are two moms whose families struggle in between paychecks. School shoes or pay the water bill. Utilities or diapers and baby formula. Tough choices.

“An equipment failure at work meant my husband was laid off for a month,” Julie explains. “That’s when we really needed some help.”

Meet Mommy’s Closet, which has been providing the help families need for a decade. It started small, literally a closet, filled with boxes of diapers, baby food, baby wipes . . . and now its grown to where 80,000 diapers are handed out every year.

Diapers may not sound like much, but the average cost for diapers can run $100 a month. It’s why now Mommy’s Closet is a member of the National Diaper Bank Network, the only diaper bank serving western South Dakota.

“We saw the need and we knew we could help,” explains Myles Kennedy, a VOA board member. “Then we recognized the need was more than diapers so we found other ways to help, working with families on employment, education, parenting skills . . . establishing a place where families could find basic baby food, good used clothing . . . basically anything that could give them the lift they needed.”

Without Mommy’s Closet, the consequences were dire for Jolene.

“They helped me maintain my family,’ she says. “I was in a tough spot between paychecks and I needed basic necessities and they had them.”

A Good Samaritan Day, when kids could get new shoes, was important for Julie’s “little guys” as summer ended and they only had “summery shoes.” Mommy’s Closet made possible winter shoes, but there was another gift beyond measure. “There was no judgment. It was a safe place to go without stigma.”

For many years Julie had been on the other side, so, when she needed help, it was with a gratitude from having been a volunteer and donor herself, one who knew the impact her time and donations made.

“You don’t think it will happen to you, but when it does, Mommy’s Closet is a place where there are wonderful volunteers and staff to help you. Just don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t hesitate to donate what you don’t need. Every donation fills a need.”

What would she say to others? “My son said it best to the volunteers when he got new shoes for school. ‘I love you! he kept saying. ‘I love you!’”