How much of a difference can one person make?
There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there in the world these days. Some people are angry about it, and lashing out. Some people are depressed and feeling hopeless. Some people are overwhelmed, and can’t decide what issue they should tackle first.
Jessica McClard saw a simple, good idea that was working in her town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. More and more Little Lending Library boxes were showing up on the routes she took as a jogger. She’d frequently stop to check out the books that were dropped off, which started her thinking as she jogged about why she and others were so drawn to them.
“My feeling is little free structures both create space for neighborliness and address social problems,” McClard told The Huffington Post. She wondered if the idea could be used to address other social problems, and it came to her, “Books nourish. Food nourishes.”
The Little Free Pantry went on her drawing board. McClard got a micro-grant of $250 through Thrivent Financial, to be used for a community service project, so she put the money into building her small cupboard, and stocking it.
In May, 2016, the Little Free Pantry box was mounted in front of Fayetteville’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. There’s been a high turnover of shelf-stable food items, toiletries and paper goods ever since.
“Peanut butter and jelly, feminine hygiene products and diapers are in demand,” McClard told HuffPost. She noted bread and garden vegetables are flying off the shelves as well.
Since the pantry is close to an elementary school, she likes to add school supplies and goodies for kids. “On the last day before summer vacation, I tied balloons to the top and stocked the box with bubbles, jump ropes and candy necklaces,” McClard said.
McClard’s first Little Pantry has inspired others to build similar pantries, both in Fayetteville and elsewhere. There’s now one at Christ’s Church in South Fayetteville and one called The Blessing Box at Crystal Rock Cathedral in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
She promotes any new pantries she hears about on her website, and encourages her fans, now over 9,000 strong, to build their own versions and spread the idea to others.
Home-grown, small-scale Philanthropy – one person’s idea is making a difference for her neighbors, and just might help people she’s never met in places she’s never been.
- The Little Free Pantry
- Jessica McClard with her pantry