A Little Free Pantry For Neighbors In Need

Little Free Pantry in Cleveland Heights

When she first heard the local schools were closing out of coronavirus concerns – and most people were rushing out for toilet paper – Cleveland Heights resident Sara Manela headed down to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore East in North Randall.

She bought a small kitchen cabinet for $25. She painted it with exterior paint and added some legs that she drove into the ground on the tree lawn in front of her home on Roanoke Road.

"As it became clear restaurants and other businesses would also close, and neighbors might lose their income, we added some pantry staples to the kid-friendly foods," Manela said.

Once a day, she sends her 13-year-old out to check the stock and give the handle a few swipes with a Clorox wipe. Keeping it full hasn't been too hard, Manela said, and some neighbors have offered her money to buy more supplies. Others have just stocked the pantry with more items on their own.

Manela was already familiar with the Little Free Pantry movement, which she says is an offshoot of the Little Free Library book-sharing idea. She learned about it from friends in Eugene, Ore. who regularly stock little pantries in their neighborhoods. 

“This was pretty easy for me because I found a premade cabinet, and I already have some woodworking tools and paint and screws and so on,” Manela said. “The hardest part was finding a warm enough day to paint it!” 

Other than building the mini-pantry, Manela said her other key role is building neighborhood support for it, though it hasn’t been hard. A neighbor she didn’t know called attention to the pantry on the neighborhood social networking app Nextdoor, where it got a stream of appreciation – and more offers to help keep it filled.

“We could afford to stock it initially, but right now everyone wants to feel like they’re helping each other, so lots of folks have stepped up with offers to donate,” Manela said. “If you can stock it but can’t build it, or vice versa, try to connect with others in your neighborhood who could do the part you can’t. I guarantee if someone can help right now, they will want to help."


Do you know people who are innovating, supporting their community and bringing a little more kindness into the world (from at least 6 ft. away) through COVID-19? Tag us with #coronakind on social media!

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