Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
The sense of support and family while at work is the message Chaplain (Capt.) Mike Troutt, 40th Military Police Battalion (Detention), said he wants to send to the soldiers of the 15th MP Brigade with the establishment of the Justice Closet that has been set up in one of the 291st MP Company conference rooms.
The idea for the Justice Closet was first discussed in the fall of 2020 by husband and wife Lt. Col. Matt Hofmann, 40th commander, and Lt. Col. Corrie Hanson, 705th MP Battalion (Detention) commander.
“(Corrie) and I were talking one night over dinner and she mentioned that she was thinking about starting a maternity or baby closet because of all the (recent births in the battalions),” Hofmann said. “There was a big spike in births (this past year).
“We have an 8-year-old and a 15-month-old … so we kind of relearned just how expensive having kids are and, on top of that, most of the time the kids can only wear the stuff maybe a few weeks before they grow out of it,” Hofmann said. “I came in and I talked to Chaplain Troutt, and I said, ‘Get with 705th and see if we can do a joint venture with this one.’”
Hofmann said Troutt took the idea and ran with it, calling several organizations to start gathering donations, partnering with Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan.; Reach Church De Soto in De Soto, Kan.; and Genesis Health Clubs in Leavenworth to conduct clothing drives. The clothing drives resulted in many bins of clothes, both new and used, being donated to the cause.
“That’s the great thing about having such a good chaplain,” Hofmann said. “I can give him this nebulous guidance like, ‘This is what I’m thinking,’ and he knocks it out of the park.”
Troutt said while the closet was originally targeted toward junior enlisted soldiers who are new parents, he ultimately wants it to be a resource for any parents so they can save money.
“I want our battalion to see that their battalion cares enough for them to provide the essential needs that everyone who has children has,” Troutt said. “I want it to help supplement their life. I want them to say, ‘Hey I can go to my battalion instead of getting in my wallet to buy a pair of shoes. …Instead of going to Wal-Mart, let’s go up to the battalion.’
“That’s the vision I have,” he said. “That’s the message I want sent.”
The Justice Closet houses myriad stacks of baby and children’s clothes ranging from newborn to Youth 7, children’s shoes, diapers, strollers, car seats and more.
To keep the closet stocked, Troutt said the partnering organizations have agreed to make the clothing drives annual events.
“It’s already arranged,” he said.
Troutt said Lenexa Baptist Church has also been helping with the food pantry in the 40th MP Battalion (Detention) Headquarters building.
“(Lenexa Baptist Church) has provided and continued to provide,” Troutt said. “They have been incredibly committed and generous, especially since COVID-19.”
Brian Rothrock, Lenexa Baptist Church director of Local Missions and Cares, said helping with the clothing closet and the food pantry was the church’s way of thanking service members.
“We want to show our appreciation any way we can. This is simply a tangible way we can show our thankfulness for their service to our country,” Rothrock said. “I had a conversation last year with Chaplain Mike in which we brainstormed how we could support his ministry to the battalion. It was obvious how much he cared for the soldiers in the battalion, and we wanted to support his care and concern for the soldiers.”
Some new and expecting parents have already benefitted from the closet.
Spc. Maliah Miller, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, is expecting her son, Jackson, May 15.
“All of this with the closet is just prepping for the baby and just helping out with some of the stuff that’s super expensive,” Miller said. “It makes me super happy and warms my heart because I know not a lot of battalions out there or companies out there would really ever think twice about (providing a baby closet).
“This is (the battalion) showing us that they actually do want to help,” she said.
Miller said that, so far, she has already obtained a stroller and car seat from the closet but expects to go back to look at clothes and other supplies as her due date gets closer.
As the closet continues to grow, Hofmann said he has high hopes for expansion.
“I would love for it to become so popular that maybe the installation takes it over and everybody can benefit from it,” Hofmann said. “There are a lot of students that are here for a year at (the Command and General Staff College) and most of them are PCSing with boxes and boxes of kids’ clothing they’re not going to use again. We’re tucked away in the back 40 of post, so if there was something a little more accessible there would probably be all sorts of foot traffic.
“We’re trying to keep the families at the center of what we do here. We just started the lactation room here in the battalion, and we’re just trying to make sure that everybody can be a soldier and a parent and a mother and a father and do everything they can while feeling supported by the unit,” he said. “This is just one thing we’re doing (to fulfill that).”