A Hand in a Stormy Day

Guess what I was doing during the storm yesterday? Was I hauling a $30 dresser from Goodwill into the back of my car, getting drenched? Was I very grateful for the person who kindly offered to help? Yes, yes I was. (I *think* I could have done it on my own, but slippery in the rain was definitely not easy, and it was a tight squeeze fitting it into the back of my little car.)

I’ve been seeing more notes on our local community boards in the last month, from people who are running out of grocery money. It’s terrible and heartbreaking. We donate regularly to Beyond Hunger, our local food pantry, and the new Oak Park Mutual Aid group passes cash grants of up to $100 to folks in need — I do think giving cash is the most efficient way to help. But there’s something to be said for hyper-local, so yesterday we decided to add a Little Free Pantry to our house.

We already have a Little Free Library in the front, which is heavily used, with the books changing daily since we put it in years ago. Kev and I had some discussion about where the pantry should go — he thought just adding a box to the library would work well, and was worried that having the pantry near our trash bins wasn’t ideal. I definitely could see that, but I’ve now moved the trash bins to the other side of the parking pad, and the advantages of having the LFP by the garage are:

a) we can fit a much larger piece than we could easily put in our front garden

b) it’s more discreet back here (people may have some embarrassment about free food that they wouldn’t necessarily have about free books)

c) our garage is on an alley-turned-street with quite a lot of foot traffic from nearby apartment buildings, condos, etc.

My plan is to put signs on the LFL in front telling folks about the LFP in back, and vice versa. The signs on the LFP would also include info on the larger food orgs in our area — in addition to Beyond Hunger, I think various churches do food, so I was thinking a schedule of pick-up days would be useful info.

Me being me, I also want to make it prettier. I was so frazzled by the storm yesterday (huge branches fallen blocking the road, etc.) that I FORGOT the drawers, so I have to run by the store today and hope they’re still there. Once it dries a bit around here (storm yesterday), I’m going to paint the thing — probably in the same blue-purple-grey color scheme as the house, but maybe adding a South Asian flower stencil?

I’d really like to paint that whole wall of the garage, actually, maybe with a monster flower mural, but painting flowers on stucco seems challenging? Maybe with a giant stencil of some kind, and spray paint? Hmmm…

Anyway. It’s a small thing, but I went through our shelves last night during the storm and grabbed a few items we had extras of and put them out there. It’s a little random right now — pasta and beans and canned fruit and cake mix. I’m thinking when we buy dry good staples going forward, we can just buy an extra for the pantry.

If other locals would like to contribute, non-perishable goods are welcome — 332 Wisconsin, the alley that’s also known as Pennsylvania Way, between Randolph and Washington. Food items only for right now; once the drawers are in, I think personal care items and such would also be appropriate. I’m going to look around at other LFP online and see what they recommend, and then make a sign to make it clear.

Hopefully, it’ll be a help to someone.

Sometimes you just need a little bit of a hand on a stormy day.

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