Small pantries unveil quiet community needs
HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (AP) — A new small pantry has opened up at Shannondale Springs Chapel, at 3868 Mission Road in Harpers Ferry, giving people the chance to pick up items they need and also to donate items anonymously. The pantry, which takes the form of a hand-crafted wooden cabinet, is open around the clock so people can give and take what they need at any time and without being observed.
“The opportunity to be able to give without recognition is something that people like to do,” said Pastor Porky Jones. “I think there are a lot of people who like to give, but to do it secretly and not be recognized for it.”
It’s the second pantry of its kind that members of the Chapel have created.
Jones’ daughter, Lauren Jones, seized upon the idea about a year and a half ago when she learned about the concept of the “Little Free Pantry” on Facebook.
“There were two things I really liked about it,” said Lauren Jones. “You don’t have to go during certain business hours, and people don’t have to know that you came to get something.”
Lauren Jones referred to the website http://www.littlefreepantry.org , which details a project that began in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and that provides various resources and links to help people start small pantries.
“Little Free Pantry and the mini-pantry movement apply the Little Free Library concept to activate community engagement of food insecurity,” the website says.
Lauren Jones said Shannondale Springs Chapel member Joan Douglas, at 218 Lakeview Drive in Harpers Ferry, offered her property for use of the first pantry. Now, more than a year later, members of the Chapel have started up a second pantry, this time at the Chapel itself at 3868 Mission Road, in Harpers Ferry.
Lauren Jones noted the help of Richie Holmes and Dave Grant, who built the two pantries.
“They’re both very skilled,” she said.
Other stations offering the anonymous exchange of food and supplies exist in the area, as well. Chelsea Payton explained that she and her husband, Nathan Payton, have set up “Blessing Box Martinsburg” stations near Calvary United Methodist Church, at 220 W. Burke St., in Martinsburg, and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, at 700 New York Ave. Chelsea Payton said the effort has received help and approval from the churches and support from others in the area.
“It’s been so nice because the community has gotten involved,” she said.
Payton noted a host of items that have been donated, including toiletry products, canned food and — in the cold months — gloves and hand warmers.
A “Blessing Box” to make nonperishable foods available also stands in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, at 898 W. Washington St. in Harpers Ferry. The box’s motto is “Receive a Blessing, Give a Blessing” and was created by the Confluence organization, coordinated by Xavier Hersom. Last year, Rev. John Unger, of St. John’s Episcopal Church, blessed the box and discussed the importance of sharing community resources.
Lauren Jones said people stock the pantries run by Shannondale Springs Chapel with nonperishable food and many other kinds of items, including shampoo, toilet paper, feminine products and other necessities.
“The foods that we have noticed go the quickest are cans of beef stew and soup,” she added. “It’s easy stuff that doesn’t require a lot of warming up. You might not even need a microwave to use it.”
Lauren Jones’ mother, Pam Jones, said chapel members put fresh farm eggs in both pantries, and she emphasized that all has gone smoothly during the year and a half that the first pantry’s been operating.
“Never have we seen it abused,” Pam Jones said.
Pam Jones emphasized the importance of checking on the pantries, especially to make sure that the food hasn’t reached an expiration date. That’s something that Chelsea Payton stressed, as well.
Lauren Jones noted how the pantry might remind people of larger needs that can go unnoticed.
“We know that hunger is a real need that people may not talk about too much,” she said.
Journal staffer Emily Keefer contributed to this report
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/