As a teen in youth group Audrey remembers playing a game called “Bigger and Better”. They would get together in cars and randomly travel to the homes of those in the church congregation in hopes of swapping what they had for something better or bigger. Audrey recalls one carload started with a can of soup, and through the evening of swaps and transactions ended up with a garish orange and brown easy chair that had seen lots of use but clearly was the ‘top prize’ as the biggest and most unique when displayed in the parking lot amongst the others’ finds!
Today, on account of a wide variety of circumstances, Audrey has been more and more aware of how people around her are in need. Unlike those more carefree days of youth, the need to look for ways to supplement food needs with bigger and more is far more common for many. Small places offer certain resources and then individuals and families head to larger agencies and food banks to help with other necessities of life.
Growing up, Audrey was encouraged by the sentiment of this statement, “If you have more than you need, build a longer table and not a higher fence.” With that mindset in place, and perhaps having a few less activities occupying her time during a global pandemic, this 30-year old attendee of Calvary Assembly in Cambridge, Ontario got busy with a new project.
The husband of one of her friends assisted in this endeavour by building a multi-shelved sturdy cabinet with a glass door. Audrey placed the structure on the front lawn of her residence which is located on a relatively quiet street in the downtown area of Galt, in Cambridge. She stocked this “Little Free Pantry” with non-perishable food items and hygiene products. Soup, Kraft Dinner, crackers, juice boxes, diapers and a variety of other items could be readily seen through the glass door. Audrey may have had this initial idea, but she has been encouraged to see how people from the community and those in their church congregation have been anonymously helping to stock this outdoor pantry on a regular basis.
One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed. Proverbs 19:17 (NASB)
On the sides of the pantry it says, “Take what you need. Leave what you can.” Like that youth game, “bigger or better” is determined by what a person may require or what is available.
“What I like about the pantry is it’s basically anonymous.
Some people may feel embarrassed or ashamed.
It is also great because I know so many people
who want to help others. It’s a community thing.”
Near the downtown and situated close to railroad tracks is a location where people tend to congregate and live in tents. The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank is open limited hours Monday to Friday - just four hours a day, and not on weekends. The “Little Free Pantry” on Audrey’s front lawn is located along a frequently travelled street by people living in this area and can provide those in need with what they may require any time of day or night.
“If someone walks up to mine in the middle of the night and wants something to eat, they can get it. It’s there, and then they can keep on going”, Audrey shared.
In response to a severe economic recession, the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank first opened its doors in 1985. At that time, the only available help for Cambridge residents was church-based programs, soup kitchens or people distributing food from the back of their cars at the local farmers’ market. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Food Bank was serving about 100 families a day, which is almost double the numbers they saw at the beginning of 2020, just a few months earlier.
It is great to see how people are taking personal steps to show love in tangible ways to those who are in need. Audrey knows that God has blessed her family and this motivates them to give back to others in ways such as this little pantry.
It was at the beginning of May 2020 when Pastor Jeff Johnson encouraged their church’s online attendees to not waste this time of isolation. Rather, it was a time to express Christ’s love to those around in greater ways than ever. A two-day food drive was planned for May 11-12. Observing all the social distancing protocols, the outer doors of the church were opened and generous folks dropped off items for the Food Bank, waving enthusiastically to whichever pastor happened to be managing the tables. In just two days the church collected almost 4,000 pounds of food! When the gentleman showed up from the Food Bank, he was expecting a few boxes not a truck full!
It is in these times that the Church can really make a difference in a community, sharing practical needs and the love of Christ. Relationships can be built as food is passed from one to another. And, through those relationships hope for living that’s found in a relationship with Christ can also be shared. Communities can be transformed through generous living and care for one another. Shine brightly … and maybe build yourself a “Little Free Pantry” to bless those in your neighbourhood!