BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — Five nonprofit social programs in Brookings merged under one building located at 908 Hope Drive recently.
After multiple years of conversations between the city, Brookings community and the nonprofits, the ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the new one-stop shop for community aid. The facility now houses the Brookings Area United Way, Brookings County Food Pantry, Brookings Backpack Project, Senior Boxes Program and the Helpline Center.
“Any way that we can work collaboratively is a win, both for the organizations and then also for the clients,” executive director of Brookings Area United Way Heidi Gullickson said. “We need to always be keeping in mind how we can share resources, how we can do more with less because the need is continually going to be there.”
The City of Brookings and United Way applied and received a Community Development Block Grant for $1.6 million in 2021. The city and Brookings County each donated $300,000 toward the project as well. The Valero Renewables Foundation also donated $62,000 for the facility’s technological needs. With over $2 million in grants and donations, the building began construction in the summer of 2023.
“It is such a tremendous asset for users that are experiencing food insecurity,” Brookings Deputy Mayor Nick Wendell said. “It’s a tremendous asset for these organizations to be co-located, the synergy that could be created by them being located together, the programs they can utilize together. Each of them had space needs and needed an upgraded facility.”
In 2019, the City Council announced its support for a new food pantry, which was formerly located in a small house. Now, the food pantry takes up a third of the building and is twice the size of the former space. Gail Seeklander, the pantry director of seven years, said there are now walk-in freezers and coolers so the organization can purchase more meat from Feeding South Dakota.
“That was a house that had like five rooms in it and we had shelves in each room. It was like a maze to get around in there,” Seeklander said about the former pantry. “Here, it’s just so clean and neat and it’s bright– it’s just unbelievable.”
The shelves in the food pantry were donated from Lowes and they now have the space to use plastic totes for storing food instead of cardboard. Later this summer, the food pantry will be able to offer fresh fruits and vegetables donated from community member’s gardens.
The location– 908 Hope Drive– came about after a new road was constructed leading to the delivery site for the food pantry. The facility owners had the opportunity to name the road and landed on “Hope.” The land is being leased from First Lutheran Church for $1 a year for 99 years.
“The collaboration and the partnerships that helped to make this building happen and the generosity of the community is just outstanding,” Gullickson said. “We are thankful that the building will be here to serve the community for the next hopefully 100 years. United Way may own and manage the building, but it really belongs to the community. It’s a building to be here to serve the needs and for us to be able to say ‘yes’ as often as we can.”