Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Outdoor pantries stocked with food, clothing and personal supplies are popping up around Haywood County, providing another source of aid for times when an emergency supply center may not be an option. The easily accessed sheds also offer an effortless way for community members to donate directly and to gauge the needs of their neighbors by what items are being taken.
“Essentially, it works on a ‘give what you can, take what you need’ system,” says Kitty Currin, co-owner with her husband Cody of Our Place Inn in Maggie Valley. When approached by a community grassroots initiative on Facebook, The Little Pantry That Could, to serve as a location for a pantry project, the Currins first offered a large box for donations of winter clothing. That morphed into a small shed by the sidewalk outside their resort with shelves and a hanging rod for clothes.
Just last month, with volunteer help from Jim Starley Construction, they put up a 12’ x 8’ shed to offer more room for donated items. The new location, just behind the previous blue shed, will comply with the Town of Maggie Valley’s setback ordinance and offer a bit more privacy when people make use of it.
“The pantry will get lots of use in a day,” Currin says. People leave coats, shoes, toiletries, canned food and nonperishables. Diapers are welcome additions as are toilet paper, personal products such as soap and shampoo, and pet food, items not covered by the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). “People who haven’t experienced scarcity may not think of these things,” Currin says.
“This effort is to help those area neighbors who kind of fall through the assistance cracks,” says Beverly Banks of The Little Pantry That Could. “As we worked to feed children in the community, we continued to hear a repeat story from the families: ‘We can’t get to the local indoor pantries when they are open. If we ask off every month to go, we are at risk of losing our jobs.’ After hearing that story multiple times from each corner of the county, a small group of us decided to break that vicious cycle by putting in Outdoor Pantries throughout the county.” The two-year process, an ongoing one, she says, has involved finding willing real estate donors for strategic locations and volunteers to help raise awareness.
What Currin has discovered through her association with the project is that many people have wanted to help others in need. “They just didn’t have an easy way to do it,” she says. The pantry also creates its own generosity. “A lot of people who use it will give back to it. It has really been awesome. People take pride in being part of this. We have visitors from out of town who want to donate. They don’t even live here and they want to help.”
Currin purchases a few extras for the pantry during her own regular trips to the grocery store. Spending as little as $10 extra and looking for sale items, she says, can yield a lot for the shelves.
“The success of each pantry is a direct result of the surrounding community’s contributions,” Banks says. “We appreciate the contributions from individuals, groups and organizations.”
To learn more, visit Facebook.com/MountainProjectsHaywoodPantryProject. Find Outdoor Pantry locations in Waynesville at 489 Pigeon Street, in Clyde at 384 Jones Cove Road and in Maggie Valley at 4077 Soco Road. Donations are always welcome.