Little Free Food Pantry
Ellie Toler

The Little Free Food Pantry of Spartanburg was the idea of Anne Dobson Ball last January after she repeatedly saw the same homeless woman pushing a bike down Heywood Road. She also began noticing other homeless people congregated in Richardson Park downtown and near her church, First Presbyterian. Anne Dobson sympathized greatly with this woman in the cold winter months and knew that she wanted to do something for other people struggling with similar situations. After doing some research, she came up with a possible solution: a food pantry that would provide homeless members of Spartanburg with regular access to non-perishable food items.

Anne Dobson told friends about her dream to start a food pantry. Grace Kleman, Anna Gramling, and Ellie Toler were on board with the idea and eager to get started. Anne Dobson began extensively researching the process by which other people had established similar pantries in their communities and how they had achieved success. Spartanburg Day School faculty immediately offered creative and financial support. The teachers and administration were dedicated to fostering Anne Dobson’s passion and initiative to give back to the community. After the group of girls met with teachers and potential sponsors about logistics of where to place the pantry, First Presbyterian Church generously offered a space for it. The Little Free Food Pantry was installed next to the Arthur Center at First Presbyterian Church in late September, near their Little Free Library.

As Anne Dobson and her friends began filling the pantry, its usefulness became apparent as the need for restocking became more frequent. They supplied the pantry with necessities such as canned goods, snacks, toiletries, and feminine products, as well as resource information that could direct people to other charities. The local media suddenly began to take notice; Fox News, GoUpState.com, Upstate Parent Magazine, and social media platforms of the school and other local organizations publicized the pantry, making more people aware of its location and purpose. The goal in the beginning was to create a resource for homeless community members, but also to promote philanthropy in the community by inspiring others to donate goods. This is beginning to come to fruition as the youth group at First Presbyterian, in addition to other organizations, have been collecting items for donation, such as gloves and hats for colder weather. The SDS community has been especially welcoming to the concept of the pantry and has gone above and beyond in its generosity. A school-wide effort has been made via the House System; students have had opportunities to bring in items for the pantry that will earn points for their house. This has provided healthy competition among students while making a positive impact on the community.

Recently, the sister of the homeless woman that Anne Dobson saw last winter reached out to SDS administration. She had heard that her sister was the inspiration behind the Food Pantry and wanted to thank Anne Dobson for the work that she and her friends had been doing. She emphasized that people often never know the reasons behind why someone is homeless. The sister’s message underscored the notion that we, as humans, share a common need for compassion no matter what direction our lives may take us.