If you are driving in the neighborhood by Silva Park, specifically on Chancellor Way there may be a canopy with shelves filled with goods and a pink sign that says Crossroads Community Pantry. Riverbank residents Mikey Benton and wife Allison started the pantry on April 11 hoping to help others in the community during these unprecedented times.
As the pink sign states, “Please take what you need. Please leave what you can. We’re in this together” posted in the grass in front of the outdoor pantry, that is truly what the family has intended.
The idea began when Mikey saw a community pantry in another state on the news. As people are trying to figure out how to adjust and live during the COVID-19 pandemic the Bentons felt a need to help the people in their community. Allison works for a dental office that closed due to the pandemic so she has been unemployed and has made the pantry part of her daily duties, along with enlisting the help of their two boys, Aydin and Ryder.
Mikey had a cabinet that he painted and put outside filled with some items that he thought other residents may need like cereal, snacks, oatmeal, beans, canned goods and other things. As people would come and go they would take some items and leave some items. The amount of items to share began to grow so they put out another shelf with more items.
“Watching people come in and out, people need different stuff,” said Mikey. “Somebody stopped by yesterday that her husband needed beans and could not find them at the store so she stopped here and found them.”
Originally the pantry was on the sidewalk but after city staff stopped by a couple days after opening, they moved it onto their lawn. They also had an umbrella at first but changed to a canopy for shade. They get donations of all kinds of things but only accept new items that have not been open and are in original packaging. City staff paid them another visit this past Monday as there is no policy or procedure on this type of situation. Everyone is trying to navigate through this situation that we have never been through before.
“We are making it work,” added Allison regarding the current times. “During the day I am in and out keeping an eye on it throughout the day. I take care of it all day and restock it. I have a few regulars that bring their bags and shop. In 30 minutes this whole thing can change. It is pretty amazing.”
The pantry is brought out at 8 a.m. and is moved inside at 8 p.m. They have toilet paper, soups, pasta, baby food and a variety of canned goods on any given day. Baby wipes have been a hot item and at one time they had a couple heads of cauliflower that went quickly. Mikey explained that people walking by have stopped and grabbed a granola bar or a snack and then proceeded on their way.
They will continue bringing out the pantry until they are shut down or things change in the community. For those that may not want to go to the grocery store or if there is something they can’t find at the store they may have it at the Community Pantry. There is nothing for sale and they are not purchasing anything and rely on a complete honor system. They invite the community to stop by and shop. If there is something you want then take it. If you have something that you want to share then leave it is what the pantry is all about.
“If they need it for others, come and get it,” said Allison. “We are giving to others and others are giving to others. This is what it is all about; being there for each other.”