Giving Locally: Little Free Pantry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Open 24/7 to Anyone in Need

CFMC COVID-19 Emergency Fund in Action

Written By: Robin Reid

It only takes one person to have an idea and asking others to get involved in order for many lives to be changed for the better. During this time of uncertainty and heartbreak with COVID-19, people from all walks of faith in Morgan County are helping individuals and families who need food.

The Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) understands food insecurity is a real problem in our communities. That’s why we established the COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support local food pantries that serve our most vulnerable and at-risk residents.

“Since the Coronavirus outbreak, I’ve been stocking the pantry shelves at least two to three times a day instead of two or three times each week. Our pantry is open 24/7 so it’s hard to track the number of people coming for help. Based on restocking, I estimate we have five to 10 withdrawals each day, which is much higher than usual,” said Steve Speth, Caretaker of the Little Free Pantry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Martinsville.

Open 24/7 to anyone in need, the Little Free Pantry is located at 1109 E. Morgan Street, Martinsville.

According to Speth, the Little Free Pantry opened in 2016 when St. Mary’s parishioners had the idea to build a 36” x 42” wooden pantry in a lighted alcove outside the front door of the church. Those who come for help are welcomed by a sign that reads, “LITTLE FREE PANTRY, TAKE WHAT YOU NEED, DONATE WHAT YOU CAN.”

The pantry is stocked with canned and boxed soups, Ramen noodles, spaghetti and sauce, bread, crackers, peanut butter and jelly, Pop-Tarts, breakfast cereals, oatmeal, canned vegetables, fruit, water, canned tuna, ravioli, and more.

“We’re different than other food programs because our pantry is open 24 hours a day, we don’t require proof of need or put a limit on withdrawals, and we have relied mostly on donations from our parishioners and the community,” Speth added.

However, they have had trouble keeping the pantry fully stocked as the need for food substantially increased due to the current pandemic. Speth said one of the church members saw CFMC’s posting on Facebook about the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for local food pantries and completed an application.

“Thanks to the generous grant from CFMC, we are now able to provide additional food, restock the pantry frequently, and help many more people,” said Speth.

With one idea and asking others, like CFMC, for help, the Little Free Pantry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church can impact an even greater number of people in the community. When someone comes to the pantry for assistance, there is a notebook available for them to leave a message if they want to.

“Some of these messages in our notebook have moved me to tears. One person wrote they wouldn’t have eaten today had it not been for the pantry while another one said drug addicts need love, too,” added Speth.

Supporting our local food pantries with emergency funding is a real solution to meet the needs of at-risk individuals and families. Currently, the grant funds are available for the next four weeks or as long as CFMC receives additional donations. We know the problem of food insecurity will continue to grow due to COVID-19. Be a part of this solution. Donate today at www.cfmconline.org.

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