NEW HAVEN — Many people in our area know what it is like to come up short a few days before payday.
With the recent closing of the Phillip Sporn plant, along with other layoffs and closures, residents of the Bend Area have been particularly hit hard. But a new project in the Town of New Haven is helping those who find themselves short of food and personal items at the last minute.
The town erected a ‘Lil Free Pantry this week in front of city hall on Fifth Street that is open 24-hours-a-day for anyone in need. And within the very day is was announced on the town’s social media page, it was fully stocked.
The ‘Lil Free Pantry is a box with shelves that resembles a large birdhouse. It has a clear door that opens in the front. Inside is a variety of food and personal hygiene items that are free for anyone needing them.
Built by Jeff Mankin, the pantry was the brainchild of Jillian Harris, who had seen a similar box used as a library.
“I first saw it on Facebook where a little girl had one made as a give-and-take library,” Harris said. “I thought it was so awesome that such a little girl had a passion to share the love of reading with others. Then someone shared that they had taken it a step further and used it as a small pantry. I knew right then that New Haven and so many other towns in our area have the perfect set-up to make this happen.”
Harris said she contacted New Haven officials with the idea, and within days the pantry was up.
“I would love to see anyone in our community take the opportunity to use it,” Harris emphasized. “I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed or embarrassed about taking items out to use. Everyone I know lives paycheck to paycheck, and some months are just harder than others.”
Harris said sometimes unexpected things even happen to those who normally have enough funds to live on. She added it would have benefited her own family more than once over the years.
“I also want to show the next generation that it’s a positive thing to take help from our neighbors, and when they have the extra, to give back,” she said. “This is a learning experience for all generations.”
Town Recorder Roberta Hysell said she was pleased by the immediate response of town residents, and the fact that the pantry was filled to capacity the first day. She said overflow items will be placed in the city building and will be regularly rotated. She, along with fellow office employee Jessica Greene, will monitor the pantry daily.
Items accepted for the pantry include non-perishable food items, as well as personal items such as toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and others. She asked that those donating food be mindful that a complete meal will probably be needed, so if donating something like spaghetti, try to donate a jar of sauce to accompany it.
“If this works out, we might do other locations in the future,” Hysell said.
While some have suggested more secluded spots in town to assure a person’s privacy in getting items out, Hysell said the pantries must be placed where they can be easily monitored and filled.
For more information on the pantry, or to donate items, contact the city building at 304-882-3203.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.