A Little Free Pantry located on Clearwater St. in Martin, Tennessee, has continued to assist community members in need since it was advertised on Facebook and opened on Feb. 26, by Lisa, 53, and Tony Griffin, 51.
The two red structures, located behind Martin Elementary School, are filled with free items for the community. One contains non-perishable, non-expired food items as well as personal care and hygiene items; the other is filled with pet products. A suggestion note pad is included inside, and a solar powered lamp sits atop for those who come at night. The pantries are monitored by video camera and checked by the Griffins several times during the day.
A note on the front of the boxes, explaining the concept, reads, “If in need, take indeed. If you’re blessed please give for the rest.” Those that do take any of the free items are asked to replace them with their own contribution in exchange, if they are able to do so. There is no application, necessary qualification or other stipulation to participate, and the pantry is available 24/7. Community members are also invited to add items to the pantry.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I just wanted to contribute to the community,” Lisa said.
She published a Facebook page on opening day to help spread the word. Within roughly three hours of creating the page, the first person visited the community cupboard. The page also served as a source of information for interested donors, such as Dresden resident Karen Norris.
Norris, 46, clips coupons every week, and what she does not use, she donates to local charities such as Santa’s Helpers, women’s shelters and the Little Free Pantry.
“God has blessed me, and I’ve had hard times fall upon me when I had lung cancer,” said Norris, whom doctors initially gave six months to live and has been cancer free since 2012. “ … I guess this is my way of giving back.”
More donations continued to pour in, and the Griffins now have a tote to store excess items. In less than a week, these donations replaced most of the products initially provided by Lisa and Tony to stock the pantry. For this reason, they also decided to make the second cabinet larger. The original now houses the pet care products, as suggested by a community member.
Through the social media platform, she has also been contacted by individuals from neighboring Tennessee towns of Sharon, Jackson, Kenton, Trenton and Clinton, Kentucky, about how to start a little pantry in their communities.
“The community support has been amazing,” Lisa said, who plans to add produce grown from her personal garden to the stock in the summer.
Lisa approached her husband about building the cupboard after she saw a newscast about a Free Little Pantry started by Jessica McClard in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in May 2016.
“It just inspired me to do this because we go to big cities like Nashville, or Atlanta or Colorado Springs, and you see homeless people all the time at red lights,” Lisa said. “I just didn’t want anyone in our community to do without.”
In mid-2016, she talked about it again and was promised a structure after Christmas. Building materials, surveillance equipment and food were furnished by the couple, who are employed by St. John’s Community Services. Daughter Courtney, 29, and granddaughter Selena, 9, also help to stock.
In her spare time, Lisa also volunteers once a month for the Weakley County Backpack Association packing food for children in need to eat on the weekends. This recognized need was part of the decision to place the pantry near the school.
To learn more about the pantry or how to contribute, visit The Little Free Pantry-Martin on Facebook.
Photo Credit| Lisa Griffin