HALLOCK, Minn. – Jacob Hook wants kids to know that good can come from difficult situations.
A desire to instill hope among local kids is one of the reasons the former Hallock resident formed KIDSon Cares, a nonprofit organization whose name references Kittson County, whose youth it serves. Through the organization, Hook – in partnership with Paul Blomquist, owner of C&M Ford in Hallock – raises money to buy children and teens winter clothing, boots and athletic equipment that their families can’t afford.
Kittson County school administrators, teachers and nurses identify students in need of the clothing, and KIDSon Cares purchases the items. Sometimes KIDSon Cares volunteers drop off the items at the schools, where they are distributed. Other times, KIDSon Cares coordinates with Hallock businesses that help the students find the items they need, then the nonprofit pays for the purchases.
Hook, a 1995 graduate of Kittson Central High School in Hallock, for years had pondered creating an organization that would provide for the material needs of economically disadvantaged kids. Hook wanted his organization to impress upon the region's young residents that people care, and also that their future isn't defined by present situations.
He knows that because he is a living example.
“When I was a kid, I got picked on. We were poor and I stuttered,” Hook said. He recalls that one day, in junior high, some kids threw his football shoes in the mud, ruining them.
“I didn’t know what to do because we couldn't afford to buy new ones,” he said.
When he got to football practice the same afternoon, Hook found a brand-new pair of cleats in his locker, a gift from a teacher. Throughout his high school years, the teacher continued to support Hook, and one day, Hook asked his mentor how he could repay him for his kindness.
“He said, ‘Someday you will have the opportunity to give back,’” Hook said.
The nonprofit Hook created has afforded him that opportunity.
“I want those kids to know there are people out there who will help them, and who do care about them, even though they might not know them,” Hook said.
Because Hook appreciated the kindness shown by the teacher and others in his hometown, he chose Kittson County as the location where kids would receive KIDSon donations. Businesses and residents have embraced KIDSon Cares, donating more than $10,000 to the organization during the past two months.
Hallock resident Peggy Carpenter, 83, donated to KIDSon because she wanted to give to a local nonprofit organization. The mission of KIDSon resonated with her.
“It just touched my heart. … I thought it’s a good place to donate to and help these kids who sometimes do fall through the cracks,” Carpenter said.
As word of KIDSon Cares spreads, donations also have come in from across the country, including Alaska, Texas and Georgia.
Kittson County’s schools appreciate the donations to the students, said Shannon Hunstad, Lancaster Public School superintendent.
“Our kids and our teachers are just so appreciative of the generous offer,” he said. “There's always need; some families now more than ever have a need.” Instead of teachers and staff purchasing items for students, now they can get them from KIDSon Cares, and that gives school employees peace of mind, Hunstad said.
“It’s a feel-good situation,” he said. "Jake has a great thing going, and we’re happy to be part of it.”
Besides monetary donations, Hallock businesses, including Bakken Boots and C&M Ford, are supporting KIDSon in other ways. Bakken Boots, for example, gives discounts on the price of coats and boots purchased for KIDSon Cares youth recipients.
“Jacob did a terrific job of putting this together,” said Rocky Bakken, owner of Bakken Boots. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Meanwhile, Blomquist offers matching donations to KIDSon, donating $100 to the nonprofit for every customer who buys a new vehicle and donates $100.
The partnerships that have developed is another positive outcome that has resulted from the organization, Blomquist said. The collaborative efforts have generated goodwill, something that can't be measured monetarily, but is important to small-town life, he said.
“It’s more than just helping kids out," Hook said. "It's about community."
As donations for KIDSon continue to grow, so do the KIDSon board’s plans for their use. Long-term goals for the monetary donations include establishing a scholarship fund for high school seniors.
Hook is humbled by the generous response KIDSon has received, he said.
“I had hopes of it doing well and helping as many kids as we could. It’s exceeded my expectations,” he said.
For more information about KIDson or to donate, email email@example.com