In a time of great uncertainty for so many, community members are coming together to help those most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Here in Delaware County, that has included the creation of a pop-up pantry, which is at the service of any and all who are in search of relief.
At 4780 S. Section Line Road in Delaware sits a small shelter, just off the road, that once served as a shelter for the property owner’s children while waiting for the school bus. Now, the shelter is stocked full of various types of goods and essential items available to anyone waiting and hoping for a break during the quarantine period and beyond.
The pantry is open at all hours, day or night, and at one time may include items such as toiletries, paper products, diapers, and even cat and dog food in addition to the non-perishable items. Coolers just outside the shelter may include meats and produce, and a mini-refrigerator has even been donated that holds items such as milk, juices and eggs.
Anyone in the community is free to come and go as they please, hopefully without any fear or shame in taking advantage of the resource. The owners of the property and the pantry are doing their best to ensure those who stop by can pick through the items in privacy without being bothered.
“It’s self-serve. We’re trying not to disturb people, because we don’t want them to feel self-conscious out there,” said Michelle Mauk, who lives at the address and is one of the pantry’s initial organizers. “We’re not going to bother you, because I don’t want people to feel like there is a stigma or to feel bad because they need help right now; everyone needs help right now.”
Those wishing to donate to the pantry can do so on their own accord as well, stocking the shelves or refrigerators themselves with their own donations whenever they have time to stop by. Mauk said some of the items that appear to be in higher demand include dog food, paper towels, and canned meats such as tuna. Toiletries such as shampoos and shaving creams also tend to go quickly as well, she added.
Mauk said she wipes down the pantry often with wipes, and the door handle even has a peel-away Saran Wrap system for each user to interact with, all to ensure as healthy an environment as possible for shoppers.
The idea for the pantry, while not the initial plan, is rooted in the goal of addressing food scarcity issues. Mauk’s son, Lucas, is a junior at Buckeye Valley High School. A third-year member of the Global Scholars program, Lucas chose to do his capstone project for the program on food scarcity issues in the community.
Unbeknownst to him at the time, food scarcity in the community would soon take on an entirely different look with the outbreak of COVID-19. When the outbreak forced his initial project plans to be canceled, the discussion began as to what could be done next. After Michelle Mauk saw inquiries about local blessing boxes on a Facebook group she participates in — Ostrander Moms in the Know — the idea for the pantry took shape.
Along with Lucas and daughter, Danielle, some small renovations such as the addition of a door and shelves inside were made to the former bus stop shelter in preparation for the pantry. With the building sufficient, Michelle Mauk said the Facebook page was created and shared everywhere possible, and the pantry has since taken off.
Pictures of the pantry are posted to its Facebook page — Pop Up Pantry Delaware Ohio — every morning to keep the community informed on what’s in stock.
While the Mauk family began the initiative, Michelle Mauk said the true effort has really extended to the entire community and their response to the pantry.
“Yes, we started the pantry and did all the stuff to get it up and running … For the most part, this has been the community that has reacted, and it’s been wonderful to see everyone giving whatever they have, anything they can give,” she said. “It’s amazing to see in light of the pandemic and all the bad things you see.”
Asked what she would like the pantry to come to represent in the community during a period of widespread hardship, Mauk said she hopes anyone who is feeling downtrodden by life and their current circumstances will take a look at all the donations rolling into the pantry and know there is help available.
“This is obviously a unique time in the world,” she said. “Nobody knows how long this is going to last. Nobody knows where we’re going to come out at on the other end of the pandemic. Unfortunately, there will probably be companies and places that don’t survive this, and people won’t have jobs. There is a time in life where everybody needs some help, and right now is that time for a lot of people.”
She added that with all the donations that continue to pour in, if people won’t accept the help offered through the pantry, a lot of what is being donated will ultimately go to waste.
To learn more about the pantry, or to see what is currently available, visit www.facebook.com/4780sSectionlineRd.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.