The idea of building and opening a Little Free Food Pantry first occurred to me a few years ago when both my children had school dining cards for cafeteria food purchases. The amount of money we were putting on the cards kept increasing and I soon found out why. My children admitted they were buying food for other kids who had none. These other kids lived in what many consider to be “privileged” areas, and attended excellent schools – Canisius and Williamsville schools. Yes, even families who seem on the surface to be in good situations sometimes need help, but often they won’t ask because they don’t want people to know what they’re going through. In some cases, families who are struggling still make “too much money” to qualify for assistance and they fall through the cracks. Tragedies and illnesses can take a huge toll on families.
I took my idea with drawing and outline for a free-standing pantry and looked for a place to put it. My search led me to Faith United Church of Christ where I received permission to put the pantry in the parking lot. After much planning and help from volunteers, it is now open 24/7 for anyone who needs it. There are no criteria for who can use it, and it’s totally confidential.
The project is not without challenges though. I work full time as a nurse and it can be difficult to check and stock the pantry daily, but it is worth it because the need is huge. The heart wrenching stories I hear when I am there have literally brought me to my knees! Donations from the community are much appreciated. Canned goods, boxed dinners, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, diapers, juice, pasta, sauce are all needed. Donations can be left directly in the pantry, or in Faith United Church, 1300 Maple Road, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. There is also a Little Free Food Pantry Blessing Box Facebook page, and if you contact me I can pick up donations.
My son and daughter have been a huge help through all the planning, building, and keeping it stocked. They’ve seen firsthand the need and how grateful people are for even simple things like a toothbrush or a fruit roll up.
One moment in particular that stands out for me happened when the pantry was first ready to open. I went to stock it for the first time and found a pair of children’s flip flops on the shelf. I noticed two little girls and a boy – Kierra, Kenna and Colden (I found out their names later) – standing outside next door. They told me proudly, beaming from ear to ear, that they had left the flip flops as a donation. Their smiles said it all! That’s what it is about – helping others in the community. No matter the size of the donation, we can all help someone.
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