By Anna Jauhola
Throughout its first year, the organization KIDSon Cares has helped dozens of school children, raised more than $60,000 and encouraged others to start similar funds.
Jacob Hook began the nonprofit in November 2020 to assist children throughout the county with any needs they may have. He never thought it would take off as fast or as well as it did. They were able to give back about $20,000 to the schools in Kittson County this year and pledged $6,000 in scholarships.
This month, they are teaming up with Holiday Helpers, a nonprofit group that works with Kittson County’s social services department, to provide new, unwrapped presents for kids and adults.
“We’ll help out as much or as little as they need us,” Hook said. “But we just want to be there for them.”
Stacy Diamond and Kathy Johnson spearhead the Holiday Helpers program, but have many volunteers who help out. Diamond said she reached out to Hook for volunteer assistance.
“It’s a natural fit,” Diamond said. “They can help with publicity and reach, making sure the needs of all our participants are met. Our thoughts were, they have momentum, volunteers and energy to make sure it goes forward forever.”
At this point, KIDSon Cares is serving in a volunteer capacity alone for the Holiday Helpers, not financially. Diamond said they are still looking for donations of toys and gifts from the public. Their Angel Trees are once again on display at churches around the county with tags labeled with presents for children and adults alike. There will also be an Angel Tree this year at Bully Brew Coffee House in Hallock.
Anyone who would like to help by giving a gift can give grab a tag from one of the trees. If you’d like to volunteer to help within the program, call 218-843-1259. Holiday Helpers need gifts returned by Friday, Dec. 10.
If you don’t have time to shop, the holiday elves are also accepting cash or gift cards to do the shopping for you.
In the long-term, Hook is looking at ensuring the future of KIDSon Cares. He’s not sure how the program took off so well – perhaps it came out at the right time last year amidst the pandemic and lockdown.
“People up here are amazing,” he said. “They’re caring. They’re giving. So, I just think with our story and they’ve seen what we’re doing, it was easy for people to give to this. We’re so grateful.”
With KIDSon Cares’s momentum taking off quickly early on really inspired one person who inspired Hook years before. Jeff Keller, who taught at Kittson Central, shared the news of Hook’s organization with several officials in neighboring school districts and helped kickstart three funds at Stephen-Argyle Central, Grygla High School and Goodridge High School.
“When I saw what Jacob was doing with KIDSon Cares, the thought came across my mind, ‘Why not us, why not now?” Keller said.
Keller, who is a custodian at Stephen-Argyle, said he brought the idea to administrators at the district, and then to administrators at Grygla and Goodridge. Each district then implemented their own programs called People, Purpose, Passion at Stephen-Argyle, It Takes a Village at Grygla and Hope Begins here at Goodridge.
“All the funds, including KIDSon Cares, are similar in that all the assets they acquire are used to purchase items for kids, things school students need,” Keller said.
He added that each program is “gathering steam” and have been well-received. Each school has its own contact for the individual programs, which can be found on the school’s websites or by calling the districts directly.
Hook said he’s excited KIDSon Cares was able to spark similar initiatives in neighboring locations. It is just one more cause to celebrate this week as the organization will hold its one-year anniversary in downtown Hallock.
By Anna Jauhola