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Little Free Pantry feeds those in need

Little things matter.

A few times a week, Lois Thomas, 86, and another woman visit one of the “blessing boxes” in  town and leave food for strangers. 

Sometimes, her grandson Harvey and their dog Izzie join them.

The wood-and-glass boxes are in front of First Christian Church on Hickman Street and the track at Campbell Junior High School on Boone Avenue.

“About every other day we go by and see what they need and fill it up,” Thomas said one day recently. “It can be anything. Today, we put boxes of chocolate donuts.”

Usually, it’s canned goods or other non-perishable foods.

Sometimes Thomas will return within a half hour and find the food has disappeared.

“We’ll go back by, and it’ll be gone,” she said.

Just as quickly, though, it will fill up again.

“Occasionally, somebody will pull in behind us” to contribute more items, Thomas said. “You really don’t know who’s doing it.”

That’s sort of the idea. It’s anonymous.

As the sign on the boxes says: “Take what you need. Leave what you can.”

“All those naysayers who said it wouldn’t work because people would only take and not give clearly don’t know our community,” Meredith Guy said.

Guy came across the idea for the Little Free Pantry when she saw a picture of one on Facebook and suggested it to her pastor, the Rev. Jerry Johns, and the church board. They liked the idea.

A church member, Cecil Walson, built the box with a little help from Johns, and Johns’ wife, Kelly, did the design for the door.

Someone else built the one in front of RDC. She has no idea who is responsible for that one.

“I’m happy that support for it has gone beyond the church and it’s been embraced by the community,” she said.

“It’s incredible,” she said, to see “the support for people with food insecurity.”

The Little Free Pantry isn’t an organization, it’s “organic,” Guy said.

It began in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in May 2016 when a woman named Jessica McClard came up with the idea of building a wooden food box similar to the Little Free Library public bookcases that started about 20 years ago. 

A month after the one went up in Fayetteville, another one called the Blessing Box went up in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and by August of that year, the mini pantry movement had gone global, according to the website www.littlefreepantry.org.

The first one in Winchester, at First Christian, will turn 1 year old on Nov. 11.

According to a message on the church’s Facebook page, over the past year, thousands of pounds of food, as well as hats, gloves, toilet paper, toothbrushes and other items have been donated. 

The success of this outreach project has far exceeded any expectations, and now a community group has sprung up in Winchester to support the pantry project, Blessing Box Winchester Kentucky, the church’s message said. The public group had 387 members as of Friday afternoon at 3:30.

Thomas said she would like to see more volunteers help fill the blessing boxes because there are hungry people in our town who need help.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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