Pay it For­ward

Op­er­ates on a ‘take what you need, leave what you can’ con­cept

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE AMHERST NEWS dar­rell.cole@amher­st­ Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

A Pay it For­ward pantry has been set up in the Ro­tary Cen­ten­nial Park on Elm­wood Drive in Amherst. It asks peo­ple to take what they need, leave what they can.

A new pantry at Amherst’s Ro­tary Cen­ten­nial Park is al­ready mak­ing a di er­ence in help­ing ad­dress poverty in the com­mu­nity.

e pantry, lled with canned food, fruit, toi­letries and other items, is al­ready see­ing lots of use with peo­ple tak­ing food from the bright blue pantry and re­stock­ing it.

“We’ve al­ready seen a lot of use. A lot of the stu that was stocked last week has been re­moved and peo­ple are re­stock­ing it as well,” Kim Camp­bell, the spokesper­son for the group that came up with the idea, said.

e free pantry idea came up about a year ago when Amherst hosted a Make It Hap­pen meet­ing that in­vited peo­ple from through­out the com­mu­nity to get to­gether and come up with the one thing they would do to make a di er­ence in the com­mu­nity.

It was out of that meet­ing that Dave Gun­ning was in­vited to sing with chil­dren at First Bap­tist Church in down­town Amherst and the pantry was de­vel­oped.

“e idea of a com­mu­nity free pantry was dis­cussed amongst a group of car­ing friends who are ded­i­cated to keep­ing it stocked and en­cour­ag­ing any­one who needs it to use it,” said Camp­bell, who built the pantry for the group. “ey also hope the en­tire com­mu­nity will be be­hind the con­cept and keep an eye on it, and stock it with any­thing they can con­trib­ute.”

Camp­bell said a mem­ber of the group saw the con­cept in an­other com­mu­nity and be­lieves it can work here. He said other com­mu­ni­ties have also cre­ated popup li­braries where peo­ple can drop o and pick up books.

e town has also been help­ful, he said, al­low­ing the pantry to be placed in one of its mu­nic­i­pal parks while also as­sist­ing with per­mits, in­stal­la­tion and win­ter snow­clear­ing so peo­ple can ac­cess the pantry on a year-round ba­sis.

“e town has listed poverty as one of its new strate­gic pri­or­i­ties and by help­ing with this project they are show­ing they are se­ri­ous about help­ing elim­i­nate poverty in the com­mu­nity,” Camp­bell said. “e com­mu­nity has em­braced this con­cept and the group feels it’s just one ex­am­ple of the power of the com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether to make pos­i­tive things hap­pen.”

Colleen Dowe from Em­pow­er­ing Beyond Bar­ri­ers is hope­ful the con­cept will be a suc­cess in Amherst.

“We think it’s great, but we’re not sure how it will work be­cause it hasn’t been done here be­fore,” she said. “ere were some con­cerns about whether peo­ple would abuse it and not ll it, but there’s a small com­mit­tee work­ing to keep it up to date. at will make it sus­tain­able.”

She said the lo­ca­tion, across the road from Mag­gie’s Place on Elm­wood Drive and in a park, is ideal. She is hope­ful Mag­gie’s Place sta will en­cour­age peo­ple to use it.

“Be­cause of its lo­ca­tion peo­ple are com­ing and go­ing and giv­ing and tak­ing with­out any­one re­ally notic­ing, which is per­fect in that there’s no stigma,” Dowe said. “Some peo­ple are very con­scious about ask­ing for help. ey want to avoid that stigma.”

Dowe feels this will help the work­ing poor, who need a few things to hold them over un­til pay­day.


Kim Camp­bell checks out a Pay it For­ward Pantry on Elm­wood Drive in Amherst. The pantry was put in place late last week by a group of vol­un­teers and came from a Make It Hap­pen gath­er­ing last year where peo­ple were asked to come with ideas how to make Amherst a bet­ter com­mu­nity.

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