By MAGDALENE CRAMER — A group of bright and enthusiastic young ladies and their passionate troop leader are putting the Girl Scouts’ mission to help others and make the world a better place into practice in Hyattsville.
Adina McGee, the leader of Hyattsville’s Girl Scout Troop #6899, spoke enthusiastically about the summer project and how the scouts came up with the idea to create a free food pantry. The idea “was generated kind of on two different streams,” McGee said. “Every year when we do our cookie sale, people donate cookies. Usually we donate them to the Armed Forces. This year, we had a Plan B.”
One ambitious girl in the troop said, “What about a food pantry?”
The troop decided to build a “little free pantry,” using the familiar concept of the Little Free Libraries that dot the city — but instead of illiteracy, they work to battle against local food insecurity, according to a press release from the troop. The Blessing Box offers a place around which neighbors might come together to meet community needs, whether for food or other necessities. The motto is: “Take what you need, bring what you can. Above all, be blessed!”
When the girls came up the idea, the troop had recently completed a project building objects out of wood for their woodworking badge with McGee’s partner, who is a carpenter. Their new-found construction savvy was applied when building the food pantry. The pantry was paid for in part by a fundraiser at Chipotle — where the girls raised $400 — and partly from a $250 grant donated to the troop by Community Forklift.
“The girls are very interested in keeping things green,” McGee said. The troop found a cabinet at Community Forklift to rehab. The cabinet used to be a retro “plurescent green,” McGee recalled. She chose to update the cabinet with a more stylish color scheme of blue-gray for the pantry. The girls helped paint the cabinet, build a roof for it and replace the glass panes with plexiglass.
A list in the Blessing Box informs readers of all they need to know so they can donate, use and take from the pantry, which is situated at the entrance to St. Jerome’s parking lot on 43rd Avenue. New items are picked up and dropped off daily, says McGee. The items that get taken the fastest? Toiletries, tuna, soups and canned meals.
Since the Blessing Box sits on the property of St. Jerome’s, Troop #6899 partnered with the church, adding to the St. Jerome’s Café, which provides a hot meal to those in need each Thursday.
“Having this pantry at St. Jerome’s ties our teachings and our community service together impeccably,” the press release stated. “There’s no better way to improve a community than by one small act of kindness at a time, and this Blessing Box can be just that.”
McGee said a girl from Troop #6899 will be assigned to check in on the pantry weekly and will report back to the troop if it needs restocking, tidy it as needed, and report any repair needs.
The troop leader said the group would love to partner with more local businesses; for instance, dental items like toothbrushes donated from The Dental Group in Riverdale have been extremely popular. Residents can also contact the group to donate funds or larger amounts of food (like cases).
Blessing Box Shopping List: canned beans; dry beans; peanut butter or other nut butters; rolled oats; canned fruit in juice; canned vegetables; low-sodium soups; canned tuna in water; canned chicken; brown rice; quinoa; nuts, unsalted; seeds, unsalted; shelf stable milk and milk substitutes; whole grain pasta; pasta sauce; canned stews; unsweetened apple sauce; macaroni and cheese box dinners; olive or canola oil; canned tomatoes; dried fruits; honey; chicken, beef, and vegetable broths and stock; diapers; personal care items (toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo); toilet paper; paper towels; bottled water; pet food; school supplies