BERLIN – A new pantry on the grounds of Buckingham Presbyterian Church is now open to members of the community.
Located at the entrance of the church parking lot, the Little Free Pantry – or blessing box – provides a place where community members can both take and donate food and toiletries at any time of day or night.
Similar in concept to the Little Free Library, the Little Free Pantry offers access to free resources utilizing community support.
Lindsay Ashton, Buckingham Presbyterian’s youth coordinator, credits members of the church’s youth group for establishing the pantry.
“We asked our youth group to come up with an idea to do in the community,” she said. “They ultimately decided they wanted to do some sort of food pantry.”
In November, the church’s youth began constructing the pantry. And throughout the holiday season, they collected canned foods through a reverse advent calendar.
In January, the church also held a Souper Bowl of Caring project, collecting canned goods to donate to the pantry.
Macy Woroniecki, a member of the church’s youth group, said the group learned about the Little Free Pantry concept online. She noted that the pantry can serve members of the community when places like the Spirit Kitchen, located at Stevenson United Methodist Church, are closed.
“We always say that hunger lives closer than you think it does,” she said. “We have the Spirit Kitchen at Stevenson United Methodist that’s open each Wednesday. But we thought, ‘What do these people do when they can’t wait a whole week?’”
Woroniecki explained the pantry can be accessed at all hours by those in need, as well as by those wishing to donate items.
“Take if you need, and give if you can,” she said.
“Anyone can leave things, and anyone can take things,” she noted. “You don’t want things that can parish or things that hold moisture.”
Ashton said the church is accepting pop-top canned goods and personal care items, such as toilet paper and baby wipes, in its pantry.
“There’s more and more people out there in our community that can use this,” she said. “We are happy that they will be able to access the pantry at any time, and it’s a nice way to go and take something without being put on the spot.”
Officials said the church’s pantry is also used to provide food for its new Adopt-A-Senior program. Deacon Carol Neal said late last year Berlin Police Officer Joseph Kerr asked the church to participate in a program delivering food to senior citizens in need.
“Of course we said yes,” she said.
Neal said pantry donations, coupled with food purchased from the grocery store, is delivered to two seniors in the community twice a month.
“I think that’s what community is,” she said, “reaching out and taking care of each other.”
Neal explained the pantry is one of many community programs offered at Buckingham Presbyterian. She noted that the church also provides rent and utility assistance to families identified by Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services. The congregation also helps families in need during the holiday season.
Ashton added that the youth group also participates in family nights and monthly mission projects, raising funds and making or collecting items for those in and around the community.
“It’s basically a way for them to get out in the community and do different things …,” she said. “It also brings families together in a world where families are so busy.”
For more information on the Little Free Pantry, or any of Buckingham Presbyterian’s community projects, visit buckinghampcusa.org or the church’s Facebook page, or call 410-641-0234. Ashton said all are welcome to participate in any of the church’s programs.
“I think this pantry is going to help the community by providing a way for families to get food without having to jump through hoops,” Woroniecki said. “It also provides a space for the community to take, donate and support each other.”