It’s been a labor of love by many people in the community, and it’s been more than a year in the planning. After all the work and planning, a Little Free Pantry was dedicated June 19 in Story City. The pantry of non-perishable items is located next to the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry at 510 Pennsylvania Ave., but it’s not officially connected to that organization.


“We thought this would be a good location for a Little Free Pantry,” said Pastor Kurt Jensen from Immanuel Lutheran Church, who spoke at the dedication event.


Church leaders in the Roland-Story Ministerial Association worked in cooperation to get the Little Free Pantry going. The colorful little pantry is available to anyone who has the need and is also open to anyone who has something to share.


“Churches came together several years ago to create Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry,” Jensen said. “And Roland-Story Middle School opened the Norsemen Food Pantry at the school in Roland. They were wonderful outreach efforts, but they both have limited hours.”


Since not everyone who is food insecure is available during the open hours, those involved thought the “Little Food Pantry is a wonderful way for people in our community to help neighbors who are struggling to put meals on the table,” Jensen said.


Little Free Pantries are similar to the Little Free Libraries that have been popping up in communities all over the country, including several in Story City. In 2016, a woman named Jessica McClard adapted the idea to feed hungry people and built a Little Free Pantry at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Ark. She also started a website, www.littlefreepantry.org.


It took a number of dedicated people to get Story City’s Little Free Pantry started, and it will continue to require volunteers to keep it stocked and maintained.


Joe Ahrens donated his time and materials to build the little pantry, which has a fun, whimsical theme.


Shelli Hassebrock, an art teacher at Ames High School, enlisted two of her advanced students to design and paint the pantry. Those students, Leah Wolter and Gretchen Webber, graduated from AHS this spring; they used a Story City Antique Carousel theme on the little pantry.


Town & Country Insurance raised funds for signage and the initial stocking of the Little Free Pantry.


Ashlee Mullenbach is coordinating volunteers to check and restock it one day a month.


Anyone can give what they have or take what they need. Items include: non-perishable food items, paper products, school supplies, diapers and personal care items, except for razors and other sharp items.


The basic guidelines are posted on the Little Free Pantry, and more information is available on www.littlefreepantry.org.


“The Little Free Pantry is a service ministry by the community, for the community,” Jensen said. “It’s another way for local people to help one another. We’re excited to be a part of it!”