At the corner of Shaw and Buchanan Streets just outside Van Buren Elementary in Plainfield, there’s a small white food pantry with a sign that reads: “Take what you need, leave what you can.”
The Little Free Pantry is the brainchild of a small group of sixth grade girls with Girl Scout Troop 1141.
Last year, the then-fifth graders were tasked with coming up with a community project to earn them the Bronze Award, the highest honor in Junior Girl Scouts. Together, they landed on the concept of helping the hungry.
“Our school has a nutrition club that helps kids that might not have meals over the weekend and it gives them food,” 11-year-old Macyn Jones said about the inspiration for the project.
The scouts knew about a food pantry on the other side of town but wanted to bring one to the west side.
“The project requirements were that it had to have a lasting impact on the community,” Macyn’s mom and scout co-leader Colbey Jones said. “I was very proud of them for being so aware of what a lot of their classmates go through.”
The girls spent their fifth grade year in the planning process – from sketching out the plans to going before the Plainfield Town Council for approval.
“Well, the hardest part was probably getting a hold of the town council,” Macyn said.
Once they had the go-ahead, the scouts got to work. With the help of a few handy dads, they spent a few July weekends cutting plywood and nailing boards.
“We had six girls and power tools, so we thought we would put them in groups to stay focused,” Colbey said, laughing.
She, co-leader Jen Davee and their families helped supervise the project but said the girls did all the hard work.
“The hardest part was probably the shelves and getting them in and even,” Macyn said.
They finished and opened the pantry (complete with stenciled green Girl Scout signage) just in time for school to start in August. The students have already received donations from the community but continue to put the word out.
The sixth graders are working with Plainfield schools to send out flyers to help keep the pantry stocked with supplies.
“I’m so proud of these girls. Girl Scouts is a wonderful program that teaches leadership and civics. I could tell how proud they were. It proves to them they can do anything they put their mind to,” Colbey said.
“I thought it was really fun and it was cool we were a community,” Macyn, who just reached cadet status with her pantry team, said.
Donations can also be made directly to the pantry.