SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - The Sikeston R-6 Schools have helped out students more than 3,000 times so far this school year in receiving needed items.
"We just serviced over 13,000 kids since we started in January of 2016," Sikeston School Resource Officer Brent Mullins said. "I would have never guessed that we would have that many kids that needed help in Sikeston."
The Sikeston School’s Bulldog Pantry is stocked with an assortment of food, toiletries, coats, hats, blankets and a long list of other basic needed items for students to get whenever they need it.
The idea for the pantry was started by Bulldog Pantry Coordinators SR Officer Mullins and Lynne Dewitt to help meet their basic needs.
“I saw it initially on Facebook at another school in Texas I believe that was doing this,” Mullins said. “I sent it to Lynne Dewitt and said we need to start this in our community.”
"Hats, gloves, socks, kids don't have socks and underwear," Dewitt said of the items most needed this time of year. "We give socks and underwear out everyday."
Southeast Elementary School Counselor Leanna Kinder said the needs for these kids have always been there and they are now met immediately.
“I can say in the years that the Bulldog Pantry has been open, I have never come over here for a need for a student and not be able meet that need,” Kinder said. “Whether it’s a coat, shoes, undergarments, food, whatever it may be, the needs are always able to be met here.”
Dewitt said it's also beneficial for those students to be able to fit in and be more comfortable with other kids.
“Then they don’t stand out in their classroom. They fit in with everybody else," Dewitt said. "Once they have all their needs met, they have shoes on, coats on, underwear, socks, all their needs are met and they’re just like everyone else in the classroom.”
Mullins and Kinder said that having those basic needs for students is essential for growth, education and overall life development.
“There’s a little girl that used to come in here a couple years ago that was making terrible grades and had bad behavior,” Mullins recalled. “Now, she is a straight 'A' student and has no discipline issues. We think she was just a hungry kid.”
"We know that humans in general that if basic needs aren't met, they are not able to work on relationships, they are not able to go to school and learn. We are not able to work on those higher learning things," Kinder added. "So being able to see a need and just meet it within an hour is just an amazing blessing for our kids."
Along with meeting the basic needs, Kinder said it reduces the worry about anything else so they can focus on just being a kid.
"Seeing that kid being able to just go back and focus on being a kid, because we know a lot of kids in our community that they don't get to focus on that. They have to live in survival for a lot of them," Kinder said. "Then our community, on the flip side, has created such a culture of giving and a big part of that is through the Bulldog Pantry. To be able to see those kids go back to focus on being a kid, at least while they're at school in that safe place, it's great."
Mullins echoed Kinder that the need here for items is always answered by the community when they need it.
“We couldn’t do this without our community,” he stated. “We put on Facebook, ‘Hey we need pop tarts,’ or this and that, and the next day or the day after, there it is.”
He also states that helping the students also helps with how they view the police officers in their community.
"Being a police officer, I think it has helped me personally and our department of the kids seeing us as something other than just what they see on TV of police officers being. They actually see us as human beings," Mullins said.
Mullins, Dewitt and Kinder did want to thank the community for their overwhelming response for donations when they are needed. This includes a local organization that helped with the donation of the climate controlled walk-in storage buildings that the items are stored in as well.
“The Jaycees gave us $5,000 toward this building,” Mullins stated. “The buildings cost about $6,500 dollars. Then they had the lumber donated and installed the shelves and everything in this pantry.”
If you would like to help out in donating any items or have questions about the Sikeston Bulldog Pantry program, you can message them on their Facebook page here.