By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
When Heather Hunt first heard about the Little Free Pantry movement on National Public Radio, she felt a calling.
“It stuck in my head and it stayed there. And it was in my head forever that I was supposed to build a box,” she said.
That urge to help those in need was answered when Findlay’s newest Little Free Pantry was installed in front of Cakes for Heaven’s Sake, 1201 N. Main St. On a recent sunny afternoon, the green wooden box was filled with cans of soup, beans and fruit, boxes of cereal, toothpaste, soap and even a few pairs of socks.
Similar to the little free libraries that make books available for the taking, little free pantries are centered around the same idea: take what you need, leave what you can.
Hunt said at first she worried about how to keep a community pantry filled.
“If someone comes and empties it out, I thought, how do you sustain it if that happens? And in the end you can’t worry about that,” she said. “Somebody else said, ‘Well, somebody’s going to get it all, then I’m not going to get any.’ That’s not what it’s about. And you have to just trust that everybody else is going to be good and contribute.”
Once she decided to go ahead with the project, Hunt had to settle on where to place the pantry. She wanted a spot where people could drive up and add or remove items easily. Then she thought of friends Terri and Bryan Crissman, owners of the North Main Street bakery. “When she said to me, ‘I just feel like God’s calling me to do this,’ I said, ‘Well, if God’s calling you to do it, it will go,'” Terri recalled.
The resulting pantry, which was a corner cabinet in its former life, is not fancy, said Hunt, who found the cabinet in her father-in-law’s barn, then refurbished it with green paint.
“If you go to the Little Blessing Box online, some of them are really fancy and gorgeous. If I made it fancy and gorgeous, I would never get it hung, so it is what it is,” she said.
A friend in the construction business donated the tar paper for roofing which her husband, Dave, added. And Hunt’s father-in-law fabricated a bracket to hang the box from a light post.
The pantry made its debut the last weekend in November with 20 cans of food, two boxes of cereal and some odds and ends of toiletries. An accompanying Facebook page launched the same day and, by the next morning, had garnered 684 total likes.
“God bless all my friends because I’m like ‘invite,’ ‘invite,’ ‘invite,’ ‘invite,’ ‘invite,’ scroll, ‘invite,’ ‘invite,’ ‘invite,’ ‘invite,’ ‘invite.’ And then pretty soon it just took off,” she said of the page. “I guess I didn’t expect that. I thought half a dozen of my friends would go, ‘Oh, that’s nice, Heather, here’s some tuna.'”
More items have since been added. Terri said a couple stopped by the shop to see where the pantry is located and added a canned item. Hunt also had a woman contact her and ask where to send a monetary donation.
Hunt also plans to place a flier about the bread ministry at Catalyst Church, where free bread is handed out to anyone in need from 5:15-6 p.m. on Thursdays. The church is located at 620 Lynn St.
“If they have a lot of things (for the pantry) they could bring them to the church and drop them off, or they could come get bread as well,” she said. “I don’t know that I want to put fresh bread in the pantry, but at least it would spread the word.”
Donations will also be accepted inside the bakery if the box is full.
In addition to canned goods and nonperishable items, Hunt noted that the pantry may also serve as a place to offer hats, gloves and scarves this winter.
“I’m thinking we’re going to need a second box,” Terri laughed.
Hunt said her wish is the pantry benefits those in need.
“I hope that it helps, that’s all,” she said. “You follow God’s lead, you can’t question it. You know, it wasn’t an ark, it was just a box.”
A Little Free Library located at Blanchard Valley School also assists families who might need food. Its top shelf features canned and dry goods. Another Little Free Pantry is located behind Bluffton Presbyterian Church.
For more information, check the Little Free Pantry Findlay Facebook page or contact Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.