New micro pantry provides anonymous assistance to those in need

by Carrie Steinweg

LANSING, Ill. (March 20, 2019) – There’s a new resource in Lansing for those who may be in need of a little help but have a hard time getting it—because they don’t qualify for formal assistance, or they’re hindered by paperwork, or they’re unavailable during the hours a larger food pantry is open, or they’re too shy, reserved, or embarrassed to ask for help.

At Mt. Zion UFL Ministries in Lansing, there’s now a micro pantry available to the community that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no need to prove income. No application to fill out. No timeline to work within. No questionable stares from onlookers. The traditional roadblocks that may prevent people from seeking help are absent.

A little help

Maybe you work steadily, but the last few days before the paycheck arrives you find the pantry getting thin. You can pull up and grab a few non-perishable items to help get you through for a few days. Or maybe you’ve been getting assistance long-term, but there’s still a gap where you need a little more to get by. Or maybe you’ve fallen on hard times and just need a little temporary help to feed your family. Maybe you’re a senior on a fixed income who has limited resources to purchase food. The situations are all different. And the situation doesn’t matter. No matter who you are. No matter why you need it. Pastor J. Raphael Leon, Betty Burley, and members of Mt. Zion want to see the micro pantry used by those who need it most.

Betty Burley (left), the church secretary who initiated the micro pantry project, stands at the pantry with Pastor J. Raphael Leon. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

Burley is the church secretary who initiated the project. She came across a Facebook post about these cabinets that are being used to provide small amounts of food, household goods, or baby items for those who need them. That led her to micropantries.com, where she put in a request to have one added at Mt. Zion at the approval of Pastor Leon.

The micro pantry gives people 24-hour access to small amounts of food, household goods, or baby items. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

Blessing the community

The process from the time she applied to when the micro pantry was installed was only about a month. The structure was scheduled to arrive later, but Burley got a call that a micro pantry was being delivered to South Holland, so they wanted to move up the delivery date and stop in Lansing on the same trip.

It’s been in place a little over a month, and Burley said it’s getting utilized quite a bit, both by those stopping for food and those making donations. A sign instructs, “Take what you need, leave what you can,” and Burley said generous donors have been helping to keep it stocked. Donations from church members and the community will replenish the supply as needed. “It’s been such a blessing, and we’re seeing residents using it,” she said.

Burley added that individuals can also leave a note in the pantry if they have a special request for a food or baby item or are in need of clothing and they’ll do their best to meet those requests. The micro pantry itself was free to the church through a non-profit group.

Anonymous access

“There’s a stigma associated with needing help, and sometimes people are afraid of reaching out,” said Burley. “We’ve removed this stigma by having this micro pantry outside.” Use is anonymous on the part of the receiver or the donor, and the micro pantry can be visited at any time of day or night.

If you’re making donations and you would like a receipt for tax purposes, you can see Burley during church hours, and she’ll provide one. “It’s our blessing to be able to give back to the community with the food pantry,” she said.

The micro pantry is located in front of Mt. Zion UFL Ministries, 2340 177th Street in Lansing. It is just west of Torrence Avenue behind Sunrise Health Foods.

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