Rutland, Vermont—Thanks to the hard work of one passionate employee, Community Care Network has joined the Little Free Pantry movement to give back to the community and encourage neighborly support. The organization—one of ten designated mental health agencies in Vermont—has started the process of placing neighborhood pantries at three of its locations in Rutland City. The first pantry was installed at Community Care Network – Rutland Mental Health’s building at 7 Court Square. The Little Free Pantry movement started in 2016 as a way to address food insecurity in communities. The pantries offer ways for community members and neighbors to give what they can and take what they need, from non-perishable food and household items to toiletries and clothing.
The project began with Carmen Schlieder, a CCN employee who has organized and led the effort from ideation to installation. When Schlieder learned about the movement—which originated in Fayetteville, Arkansas—and was excited about how the project could encourage neighborly action in the Rutland community.
“I knew Rutland needed the pantries and I immediately started thinking about locations,” says Schlieder. “Of course, I wanted to go big to start. But thought it was best to start out small, get the idea moving, and grow it into something bigger once the idea has caught on and that’s what I hope will happen. First spread them across the city and then across Rutland County. We all know there is a need.”
Schlieder’s idea is timely. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many Vermonters facing food insecurity or unable to access other basic necessities like toiletries and basic household items. Since the onset of the pandemic, Rutland has seen many non-profits and businesses jump to help community members in need. Little Free Pantries brings the spirit of a helping hand to the neighborhoods of those who seek support, and those who ready to give it.
“Right now, especially during COVID, so many people want to feel a part of the community, but we are so limited in our interactions. The Little Free Pantry is a great way to do something for others in your neighborhood or community while practicing social distancing. And, with food insecurity at an all-time high, what a great way to lend support to community members in need!”
Building and installing the pantries was no small feat. Schlieder and her partner built two pantries themselves, and recruited additional help to build the third. She mobilized other employees at Community Care Network to champion the project, and sought guidance from Community Cupboard about ensuring the quality of pantry goods.
Initial donations for the pantries have come from Community Care Network employees, but the goal is for community members to take ownership of their nearby pantry by donating what they can, encouraging neighbors to do the same, and spreading the word.
How to Use Little Free Pantries:
- Locate Rutland’s pantry at 7 Court Square in Rutland, VT
- Take only what you need.
- Enjoy your items!
How to Donate to Little Free Pantries:
- Locate the pantry at 7 Court Square in Rutland, VT.
- Check the list of accepted pantry items. Lists are posted on the pantries, and online here .
- Place your donations in the pantry, making sure the items fit and the door can be closed securely.
- Spread the word! Tell your friends and neighbors about the pantries and encourage them to give!
For more information on the Little Free Pantry movement, visit littlefreepantry.org. To learn more about Community Care Network’s programs and services, visit rmhsccn.org. If you or someone you know is experience distress or in crisis, call Community Care Network’s 24/7 Crisis line at 802-775-1000.