Brandy Weinner had no idea what to expect when the small cabinet filled with canned goods was placed at the end of her drive at 2391 S. Cochran Street in Charlotte in the fall. Her only hope was to make a difference, however small, in her community.
What happened next was beyond anything she could have imagined. The Charlotte Little Free Pantry exploded with activity, both those taking items they needed, and the community responding in turn with countless donations.
“The community has really come together to support it,” Brandy said. “I didn’t expect much, but hoped it would take off. It really has been great.”
Brandy said she got the idea for a free community pantry from several YouTube videos showing “blessing boxes” that were popping up in communities around the country. The blessing boxes from the videos were similar to little free libraries, but Brandy said she thought she could make a bigger impact by providing free food to those in need.
She said she wanted to keep it as simple as possible, making the pantry accessible 24-hours a day, seven-days-a-week to anyone in need, no questions asked.
“One of the reasons I wanted to do this was the anonymity people could keep,” she said. “Sometime there’s a stigma associated with people who need help.”
Dave Howe, a regular supporter of Charlotte non-profits, appreciates the low-profile donors and recipients can keep at the Charlotte Little Free Pantry.
“Once I heard there was one in town, I jumped at the chance to support it,” Howe said. “There are a lot of people that are going through tough times right now that don’t have the money to buy things for their families, small items that could make a big difference.”
Donors have left everything from non-perishable food to hats and gloves, to paper products. Brandy did request that canned goods not be donated when the temperatures drop below freezing for any extended period of time. She’s had some cans explode due to the cold.
One interested community member donated the current structure that houses all of the donations. Amy Forell, owner of Vintage Soul, said she read about the pantry on Facebook and thought she could help.
“I use all reclaimed materials when I build, and I get a lot of it for free, so I didn’t mind doing it as a kind of ‘pay it forward’ thing,” Forell said. “She’s helping people in need.”
Howe said he’d like to see similar pantries pop up on each end of town and has thought about starting one on the east side of Charlotte.
“It’s the little things that make a difference in a small town,” Howe said.
To those that have helped the Charlotte Little Free Pantry make a difference, Brandy expressed her sincere gratitude. And, for those who have utilized, or need to utilize it in the future, she said, “It’s there for you, don’t be apprehensive or scared, come and take what you need, that’s the whole entire purpose.”