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20 years of giving thanks

November 22, 2018

SPEARFISH — For the past 20 years, faculty and staff of Black Hills State University have assembled Thanksgiving baskets for families throughout the community.

“At this time of abundance and thanksgiving you have people that really can’t afford to feed themselves and their family,” said Dr. Mike Isaacson, AVP/Title IX-EO administrator of Student Affairs said.

Isaacson explained that every year, his department reaches out to the 44 other departments on the BHSU campus in order to find families among the students and staff who may need a helping hand. Once the number of families is identified and a list of supplies is created, Isaacson spreads the word to the faculty and staff about what is needed and starts collecting supplies or money from anyone willing to donate.

“It can take up to a week,” he said of collecting donations. “It’s never more than that, (usually) two or three days.”

A typical basket includes everything a family would need for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, including a semi frozen turkey, dried stuffing mix, cranberry sauce, potatoes, ready bake dinner rolls, black olives, green olives, baby carrots, celery, butter, milk, prepared pies, and of course whipped cream. Along with food, the baskets also come stocked with gently used children’s books and a Thanksgiving card signed by all the volunteers involved in the assembly of the care packages. So great is the outpouring of generosity that even after all 14 baskets had been fully stocked this year, there was still money left over, which Isaacson said will be used to buy hats and gloves for the children of the families the baskets will be going to.

The baskets, which are actually boxes, were decorated with Thanksgiving cheer by way of hand print turkeys, and colorfully scribbled words like “Happy Thanksgiving” and “Gobble, Gobble”, by kindergarteners from Sturgis Elementary School. Isaacson said the kind hearted kids were treated to a lesson plan built around the importance of giving, particularly around this time of year, and even learned a few box wrapping techniques just in time to help wrap presents for Christmas.

“So they’re all excited to help so they decorated the boxes,” Isaacson said. “It’s not perfect, but they’re darn cute. They had a little help from the adults, but they were bound and determined to get through that.”

Isaacson believes the Thanksgiving basket program has been running smoothly for so long because of the understanding of how important it is to take an interest in the members of our communities and treat them with kindness and respect.

“Cognitively we know people need help,” Isaacson said. “Nobody’s begging, or doing any arm-turning on this at all and every year for 20 years it’s never been a problem. In years (past) we’ve only had four baskets, and years like now we have 14. People want to help.”

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