Meanwhile, preparations are underway for a 'grab and go' food service for families in need that would launch March 23.

As various individuals, agencies and businesses are launching efforts throughout the Crookston community to help families and kids who are likely to struggle most as a result of what will likely be an extended school closure, one of the bigger food and gift card collection drives has sprouted up at Highland School, where Northwestern Mental Health Center’s school-based social worker Tara Rodriguez has a history of leading similar successful efforts.

Joined by NWMHC and Highland social worker colleague Jessica Shockman, Rodriguez is launching a food and gift card collection initiative at the school. The school is accepting donations of non-perishable food items and gift cards from local grocery stores and restaurants, as well as cash cards for families in need during the extended school closure.

The effort is leading up to/in advance of what is being deemed a “grab and go” food service program at the school that’s set to launch on Monday, March 23. Food Services Director Anna Ogaard-Brekken and her staff are currently working “tirelessly,” Rodriguez said, on setting up that program. If families are somehow unable to access the food, Rodriguez explained, the plan is to have it be delivered by the school district.

“This option is amazing for our families of the most need,” she noted. “Food is something to convey love and support, above and beyond the necessity of the food. We just want families to know that they don’t have to struggle alone.”

The collection drive was launched, Rodriguez said, because it is needed immediately, but also because the Crookston community has a history of being exceedingly generous when it comes to helping others. And helping with food is even better. “We know that people who help feel the emotional/mood benefits just like those receiving, and food stability seemed to be a natural fit,” she added.

With such a major focus on “social distancing,” the Highland collection drive is being conducted in the hope that up-close person-to-person contact is minimized. To prevent close contact between Highland office staff and people dropping off donations Rodriguez said there is a cart right inside the school’s entrance (door #6) for non-perishable food items to be placed. If people are donating gift cards or cash cards and they’d rather drop them off in person in the school office, she said doing so will be permitted.

Even though the “grab and go” food service program is poised to be launched next week, Rodriguez said she expects the collection drive to continue as long as schools are closed.

On another but also related front, with all of the stress families are feeling, in addition to the isolation that comes from extended periods of social distancing, Rodriguez noted that she and Shockman will try to be at Highland as much as possible during the closure period, mostly so they can simply be available to those who might need some support.

“We know that sometimes social distancing can enhance feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety, and we want to make sure we’re available for anyone need that support as well,” Rodriguez said.

If you’re worried or concerned about getting through this unprecedented time, she said she’s available at 701 740-4473, and Shockman can be reached at 289-7023.