Editor's note: This story is part of Sioux Falls Simplified's "A Little Help" give-back effort. We're sharing stories all month long about Journey of Hope with the goal of raising $5,000 to support the ongoing operations of this local nonprofit. You can learn more here and donate here.

Simplified: Kari and Darin Palmer know firsthand something as simple as a bottle of shampoo, a clean pair of socks or a tube of deodorant can make a person feel seen when they're in a tough spot. That's why they started Journey of Hope – a nonprofit that's meeting people where they are to provide encouragement along life's journey.

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The couple founded the nonprofit in 2020, following the death of their 26-year-old son, Sven Godwin.

  • Godwin died of an alcohol overdose. In his journey of depression and addiction, his parents saw the challenges he faced – including those as basic as needing a clean pair of socks and other hygiene items.

It was those needs that inspired the Palmers to start Journey of Hope as a way to make sure others in a similar situation would feel at least some small encouragement knowing people cared enough to help them meet basic hygiene needs.

"Initially it was kind of this emotional, 'I have to do this. I have to provide for people. I have to let them know there is hope on their journey,'" Kari Palmer said.

At the start, the nonprofit focused on serving people who were facing addiction, were unhoused or were coming out of incarceration. That mission continues to expand as the broader hygiene needs of the community become more apparent.

  • Additionally, they're bringing healing through the arts via partnerships with the Juvenile Detention Center and the Glory House.

Last year, Journey of Hope distributed 18,000 hygiene products and partnered with 33 agencies in Sioux Falls – including 11 schools.

  • Kits are distributed in a blue drawstring bag, an homage to the bag Godwin used to carry around.

Why hygiene products?

Hygiene is often considered a luxury, not a necessity, Palmer said, which is why hygiene supplies are not included on social service benefits such as food stamps. That means people with limited incomes have to make tough choices about how they spend their money, and hygiene products are hard to prioritize when food and shelter needs are unmet.

"We know that when a person is unable to access proper hygiene care, they are less able to reach goals, suffer more severe health consequences, and can face life-threatening illness and disease," Palmer said.

Journey of Hope is also a member of a national Hygiene Bank Association – which helps them ensure they're providing products that are not only accessible but also equitable.

  • The nonprofit interviews the people it serves to make sure it's meeting their specific hygiene needs, for example, finding shampoo that's appropriate for diverse hair types.

Who are the people Journey of Hope is helping?

Anyone who needs access to hygiene products. The ultimate goal is to create a hygiene bank that people can access in a way similar to a food bank, Palmer said.

For example, a Sioux Falls school nurse shared stories of how the hygiene kits have impacted local kids – including the detail that Journey of Hope products have been given to kids who shower at school because they didn't have running water at home.

Kits are also frequently used to help people coming out of incarceration.

"Often, they come to us with nothing," said Kelly Cleveringa, program manager at the Glory House.

How can I support Journey of Hope?

Even a small donation can go a long way.

Make sure to mention in the "notes" section of your donation that Sioux Falls Simplified sent you.

And, if financial giving isn't an option for you at this time, you can support the nonprofit by volunteering, hosting a product drive or simply sharing this story with more people.