Many Hands, Young Spirits: About the Little Free Pantry at FPC
In Spring 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Cleveland Heights, FPC’s middle school and high school youth wanted to find a way to help. Grounded from planned mission trips, the students looked closer to home, saw food insecurity as a community need, and decided to make a plan. Led by FPC member Peggy Roberts and former Director of Christian Formation Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks, they learned about the Little Pantry national movement and embraced it as a project they could own and continually support.
Meeting by Zoom, email, and texts, youth group members collaborated to plan the design and placement of the Little Free Pantry. Much thought went into determining the right size and ensuring easy access for drive-by and walk-up users. Church member and youth group dad Brad Richer stepped forward to build the Pantry, which was installed at the Scarborough Road parking lot by Matt Kashuk, a structural engineer. The youth group gathered in the summer to waterproof, decorate and paint the Free Pantry and brainstormed how to promote it on social media, local news, and neighborhood flyers. Amy Kim announced “Extending the Table,” an invitation to the congregation to help contribute items to stock the pantry, a flyer was distributed to neighbors, and an article appeared in The Cleveland Heights Observer.
Generosity abounded. By August, youth group parent Stacy Hunter created a Sign-Up Genius for young people and their families. Those who signed up were asked to make sure the Pantry was kept clean, organized, and restocked with overflow donations. They also were asked to consider promoting the Pantry to their communities in whatever way they felt comfortable. Many used their social media accounts, texted family and friends when they saw a need for donations, and made donations themselves. As FPC began offering pandemic-style drive-through Communion Sundays, the church also invited members to bring food donations, which were accepted and stocked by the sign-up volunteers.
FPC’s Pantry became the largest Pantry in Cleveland Heights, and soon donations exceeded its 27 X 34- inch walls. An overflow bin was installed outside, and the church set aside the Chicote Room as an indoor storage area for the growing donations. Volunteers Peggy Roberts and Mity Fowler expanded promotion in the Cleveland Heights community, and The Heights Observer highlighted the FPC Pantry as a community hunger resource. In December, the Serve Council donated $1,000 to purchase food items to respond to the growing need.
As the project continues to grow, FPC invites all members to join in its support. Below are the ways you can help: