LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - "Neighbors helping neighbors" is the motto for Little Free Pantry.
According to their website, they are a "grassroots, crowd-sourced solution to immediate and local needs."
Little Free Pantry was created to help neighbors address food insecurity. People can drop off donations of non-perishable food items as well as hygiene items in the pantry for those who cannot afford it and need the items.
Two of the three Little Free Pantry boxes around town were funded by the Junior League of Lake Charles. They say they stocked each location with $500 worth of food and $250 worth of hygiene products.
Lauren Olsen, the Provisional Project co-chair of the Junior League of Lake Charles, says the league picked the project when they saw the need in the community.
"So when deciding our project, one of the things that really attracted us to Little Free Pantry was the concept of giving what you can, take what you need."
Junior League of Lake Charles Provisional Project co-chair Cassady Hickingbottom says that areas of cities that put up Free Little Pantries can see a decline in the crime rate.
"Not only have they helped the community fulfill the needs of people who are hungry, they have had a direct effect on the crime rate. A lot of petty crime happens because people are simply hungry."
The Junior League placed two of the three Little Free Pantries at churches - one in North Lake Charles and one in South Lake Charles - to reach as many people as possible. Olsen says the placement of the pantries was also strategic, allowing people who want to donate or take items to easily walk or drive up to the pantry.
"The great thing about this box is that you can drop off donations at either church or you can refill it yourself," says Olsen. "You can do it after work or during the day, if you have that flexibility, and it opens the door for many people who want to help out, but they don't know how."
Lana Holland, a member of Zion Tabernacle Baptist Church, the location of the newest Little Free Pantry, says one of her favorite thing to do is go out and restock the shelves every other day.
"I look forward to seeing, you know, what is needed in the pantry," Holland said. "When I see that the items are being taken, I see it's been a great impact to the community and that they are actually using it."
She says she is currently trying to put together a list of people who want to help donate and restock the shelves. If you want to help, she says you can call her at 337-564-4810. She says if you want to help but do not have the means to get to the church, she will come and pick up the donated items.
There are currently three Little Free Pantries in Lake Charles.
- Bishop Nolan's Episcopal Church. 803 Division St, Lake Charles LA 70601.
- St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church. 123 W Sale Rd, Lake Charles, LA 70605. To get more information about this location, you can call 337-477-1881
- Zion Tabernacle Baptist Church. 910 N Shattuck St, Lake Charles, LA 70601. To get more information about this location, you can call 337-436-6627
Zion Tabernacle's Pastor, Alvin Brass, says he has been pastor at the church for 13 years and has tried to teach the congregation about reaching out to the community, sharing with those who are less fortunate, and giving as much as they can. He says Holland came to him saying there was a need in the community. He says the Little Free Pantry has already been utilized. After service one Sunday, a man came up and said he needed help. The deacons took him to the pantry and told him to take what he wanted.
"And he cordially grabbed a few cans of soup and some beans and he left with a smile on his face," Harris said. "We were able to fulfill that need right away."
Father Seth Donald at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church says they have seen an impact on their side of the city as well.
"At the end of every one of our services, we are dismissed by saying go in peace and serve the Lord," Donald says. "And so the Little Free Pantry is one way that we recognize that church doesn't end at the end of the service. We are not only helping our neighbors but it has brought our community together. Things like these, initiatives like these, make Lake Charles special. The fact that people care and that people are willing to launch projects like this and then to maintain them."