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Little Free Pantry allows neighbors to lend a helping hand

Benjmain Pierce, Assistant News Editor

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A community project started by a Whitewater resident is allowing neighbors to help each other in times of need.

Kristine Zaballos heard about the Little Free Pantry project, which was started by a woman in Arkansas in 2016. The Little Free Pantry project is similar to the Little Free Library idea, where community members can come and take a book and leave books for others to enjoy.

The Whitewater Little Free Pantry allows community members to donate food and other items for those in the community who might be in need. They can also come and pick up something they need from the pantry 24/7.

“I heard about it and I realized that with the college community here and that combined with all of the children in the Whitewater School District nearby, I thought there may be a need in Whitewater,” Zaballos said.

With that thought in mind during August of 2016 she had a friend build the box and put it outside of her home located at 1143 W Walworth Avenue in Whitewater. The community began to use it immediately.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “People come and stock it when it gets low, they re-organize it, they donate things to others. People use it consistently,” she said.

The use is far beyond just food as well, as Zaballos and others stock the pantry with fresh baked goods, hat and glove combos during winter, toiletries and more.

“There is no limit to what people need and we respect that. Everything that gets placed in the pantry is eventually taken from food to gently used dishes and clothes,” Zaballos said.

The pantry was one of the first in Wisconsin and has had a positive impact on both the people donating and the people receiving the items. Local businesses such as The Sweet Spot have even donated birthday cakes for locals using the pantry who can’t afford one.

“I realized that I was keeping the fun to myself if I just stock it myself. There are some local people who are really involved and donate stuff all the time. It allows a way for community members to connect with each other,” Zaballos said.

Amy Wurster has donated to the Little Free Pantry multiple times and she said the impact is far beyond food.

“I think it is a real godsend,” she said. “It seems like there is a real need for it and we appreciate what some of these people are going through and we are here to help them,” she said.

“I saw a note that someone posted on the Facebook page after using the box that read ‘Because of you I wasn’t hungry this week’, and that’s why I keep doing it. Why not help each other out when we can,” Wurster said.

Vicki Hagstotz is in the process of moving back to the Whitewater area for the second time. After cleaning her house she found things that she thought could help others, so she brought them to the pantry.

“I heard about it from my neighbor and since I am in the process of moving I have dropped off gently used kitchen towels, tools, crafts and food,” she said.

“I like that it is somewhat direct and fills the needs of those who may be afraid to go to the food pantry. It’s nice to see that we can really help others,” Hagstotz said.

Zaballos is in the process of adding a second My Little Pantry to the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library in town.

“It’s a way for neighbors to help neighbors,” Zaballos said. “We’re all in this together and we need to keep having each other’s’ backs.”

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Founded 1901
Little Free Pantry allows neighbors to lend a helping hand