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Little Free Food Pantry fulfills big need in Red Lion

Bill Kalina
York Dispatch

Jerry Pilachowski is looking for more room in his old Ford Excursion sport utility vehicle.

The large SUV is packed with reserves of food, acting as storage for his Little Free Food Pantry in front of his home business on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion. It is also an anchor, with the pantry’s tent straps tied to it.

Jerry Pilachowski stows extra food into his Ford Excursion SUV at the Little Free Food Pantry on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion Tuesday, April 21, 2020. He created the pantry, which is situated in front of his home and business. He's been using his own money plus monetary and food donations to run the pantry which has had an increase of activity over its three weeks of operation. A GoFundMe page for the pantry is at https://bit.ly/3eHgF77. Bill Kalina photo

“As we get deeper into this, people have to get food,” he said of the pandemic’s effects.

On pandemic-related hiatus from his sign-making business, Creation Cabinetry & Sign Co., Pilachowski took advantage of a bank offer to defer mortgage payments.

“I took the money from the first payment and that’s what I used to buy a couple cartloads of food,” he said.

Pilachowski bought a used tent on eBay, got the word out on a few Facebook community pages, and now has 60 to 80 people a day coming by.

Some take food, some bring it.

“I had a guy this morning who bought $250 worth of food and brought that up, then gave me another $50 so I could go get some,” he said.

The donors vary, from the local D&K Surplus Grocery to Tractor Supply Co. to the unemployed woman who emptied her purse of its $1.75 in change and offered it up.

Visiting the pantry with her sister, Julie Hivner of Windsor said she’s recuperating from neck surgery, and her medical leave is providing only half her salary. Her sister, from Virginia, is visiting during the recovery.

Kristina Kreeger of Lovettsville, Va., left, shops with her sister Julie Hivner of Windsor at the Little Free Food Pantry on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Kreeger was staying with her sister who was recuperating from surgery. The pantry, created by Jerry Pilachowski and situated in front of his home and business, has been providing food for the community for over three weeks. Hivner said she is currently out of work. A GoFundMe page for the pantry is at https://bit.ly/3eHgF77. Bill Kalina photo

“Things are a little tight,” she said. “It’s nice to have something like this for people who really need it.”

Nycholee Conner was driving by the pantry recently and stopped in to offer any assistance. She’s joined a small team of volunteers there ever since, “and I’m here till the end.”

Conner is working full days at the pantry, coordinating intake and inventory and stocking food. She said the experience has renewed her faith in humanity, adding, “More people are giving than are taking at this point.”

Pantry volunteer Nycholee Conner and Robert Sanchez of Red Lion tranfer donations at the Little Free Food Pantry on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Sanchez and his wife brought the donations. The pantry, created by Jerry Pilashowski, is situated in front of home and business. It's been providing food for the community for over three weeks. A GoFundMe page for the pantry is at: https://bit.ly/3eHgF77. Bill Kalina photo

Pilachowski has a GoFundMe page for the pantry, which is located at 3265 Cape Horn Road, Red Lion. The hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.  Common-sense shopping restrictions, like “two bags per family,” are posted at the entrance.

Visitor's cars line up outside Jerry Pilachowski's Little Free Food Pantry on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion Tuesday, April 21, 2020. He's been using his own money plus monetary and food donations to run the pantry which has had an increase of activity over its three weeks of operation. A GoFundMe page for the pantry is at https://bit.ly/3eHgF77. Bill Kalina photo

“These are people who have never been without,” Pilachowski said. “They’ve always had a job and don’t know where to turn.”

He said the nature of his pantry appeals to them as opposed to food bank offerings.

“We’re kind of a nice, middle-of-the-road alternative,” Pilachowski said.