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SIOUX CITY -- Danielle Tott said someone once told her if you see a need, you should fill it. 

It's something she puts into practice daily as the manager and head cook at the Siouxland Soup Kitchen.

Tuesday evening, Tott displayed a new way she's working to fill the needs of others by opening the door to Erik's Closet, a small space she's prepared in the Soup Kitchen building at 717 W. Seventh St. that will provide clothes, bedding, toiletry items and more. 

The room will open from 4 to 5 p.m. each Tuesday, prior to the Soup Kitchen's evening meal. Anyone, homeless or not, can come in from the community to grab two or three items.

Tott, who took over as manager at the Soup Kitchen a year ago, said she has been accumulating the items since last year. 

"In the fall, I did a big coat drive and we gave out coats on the opening day of the Warming Shelter. I didn't realize the overwhelming needs," she said. "People kept calling: 'Will you take this?' And I kept saying yes. I realized that I needed space." 

The new room sits just off the Soup Kitchen's entryway hallway, in the space that formerly served as a television area for the Day Shelter, which opened at the Soup Kitchen last winter but will move to a new site later this year. 

For Tott, the closet's namesake hits close to home. Erik Nuzum was a 50-year-old homeless man and frequent Soup Kitchen visitor who died June 13. Nuzum, who was featured in a Journal series on the homeless earlier this year, died after sustaining severe brain damage when he fell in a downtown alley, according to a family member.

"He was my favorite," Tott said. 

Nuzum is now memorialized on the entryway to the closet: The door's front panel bears a photo of him standing in a jacket and stocking cap outside the Soup Kitchen's entryway. 

In addition to showing the new room, Friday evening's open house offered the community a chance to visit the soup kitchen, speak with board members and the kitchen's volunteer coordinator, and see a trio of brand-new murals painted by Siouxland artists and speak with the painters.  

The three new murals in the main dining area feature a multi-colored eagle painted by the Dakota Valley High School art club, a sunrise and sunset painted by local artists Annie Bratkiewicz and Mike Frizzell, and the Siouxland Soup Kitchen name depicted in a design of hands and branches painted by Emma Rae Webb, a Ponca, Nebraska, teen. 

Sam Drury, 17, and Ethan Watkins, 18, sat near the eagle mural and described how they and other club members had projected the large eagle head onto the wall, traced it in pencil, then colored it in section by section over the course of two weeks. 

"I think it turned out really good," Drury said. "It went surprisingly quickly." 

Tott said even though one of the murals is still getting the finishing touches, she's pleased with the results. 

"It makes the whole dining room look bright and happy," she said. 

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City hall reporter

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