Black Hills State University senior Lorraine Coronato is leaving behind a legacy after she graduates this May in the form of the Free Store, a place where students can get clothing, food, and other necessities for no charge. 
Coronato said that after doing a sustainability internship with BHSU, she studied the demographics of students and noticed there were many low-income students that may need help. “I came across case studies from other Sustainability students at other campuses, and one was a Free Store. They made such an impact on their community, and I saw how it could make an impact here.”  
BHSU offers a private scholarship program called “Make A Difference,” which was started by former psychology professor Jim Hess. The scholarship grants funds to students with an idea to help the community of the Northern Black Hills and assists in getting that idea off the ground. Coronato said that the process of getting the funds was time consuming but doable; the difficult part was showing that it would make an impact. “The Free Store has only ever been done in a few colleges, and they were much bigger than ours, so proving a need and providing evidence that it would make a difference was much harder than with some of the other ideas people have been awarded for.” 
In its first year, The Free Store positively impacted many students on campus, especially during the winter months when some are unable to afford a nice winter jacket. Coronato explained that students have already seen it as an important campus addition and that when the cold weather started, the winter coats went fast. “No student should have to struggle with food insecurity, not having clothes, especially during the winter--and not having the school supplies needed to succeed in classes.” 
The Free Store will continue to have its permanent spot in the student union across from Starbucks and provide employment opportunities for students on campus.