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Stories from the Field: Social Work Student Coordinates Supply Drive


Social work students don’t just wait for their field placement to make a commitment to helping their communities. Many come to Tulane University School of Social Work graduate programs with the ability to see needs and mobilize resources in response.

Kara Gloe is currently in the first semester of our online Master of Social Work program. She lives in Moorhead, Minnesota, which is the largest city in northwest Minnesota and sits across the Red River of the North from Fargo, North Dakota. To support families and their school district during the COVID-19 pandemic, she and two other community members organized drives for essential hygiene and educational supplies.

“When closing school and moving to distance learning, Governor of Minnesota Tim Walz required school districts to provide childcare to families of front-line workers,” says Kara. “Since our school did not have a childcare service previously, they needed supplies appropriate for children pre-k through 12 years old.”

Additionally, the Moorhead Area Public Schools district provides education to West Central Juvenile Center, which is where children can be referred to for a 30-day behavioral/mental health evaluation. “This center sees children who are placed voluntarily by their parents or guardians and those mandated for evaluation through the juvenile justice system,” says Kara. “Since distance learning, in general, is done with technology and students at West Central are not allowed to access technology, the district faced some unique challenges in providing for their educational needs.”

Kara, along with Heather Keeler and Heather Nesemeier, saw more needs for the families served by the school district. “While our district has done a really amazing job ensuring kids still have access to meals, we also recognize that families likely have needs beyond food,” she says. “We saw many needs we wanted to try to tackle to further support people during this difficult time.”

With all of those things in mind, the three created two online shopping lists. An online Target registry includes hygiene, other daily necessities, puzzles, and games. “The puzzles and games are to support the childcare service, and the hygiene items will be distributed to families along with the meals,” Kara says.

They also created an Amazon wish list with books, games, and puzzles specifically geared toward augmenting distance learning for the students at West Central. 

Both lists allow those ordering to ship directly to the school district so that items can be sorted and distributed to those that need them.

“Donations are already pouring in,” says Kara. “In addition to the suggested items, we have also received several gift cards including a $1,000 gift card donation. We also have an anonymous donor matching all gift card donations up to $5,000.” 

Caring for children and their families is what drew Kara to social work. She’s pursuing her online MSW with an interest in the foster care system. “I had considered going back to school for social work for years and was propelled to finally take the leap after a therapist we worked with while trying to adopt two teenagers told me she wanted me to come work for her,” Kara says. “I hope to provide therapy to foster kids and work to fix a system that causes so much trauma in the name of preventing it.”