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Donation gives Red Lion food pantry some breathing room

Bill Kalina
York Dispatch

The tent at Little Free Food Pantry wasn’t cutting it. Bought used, it was the type of tent one might see at an outdoor wedding reception — complete with arched, faux windows. 

“Every time it rained, it fell apart,” said managing volunteer Nycholee Conner, who has been at the pantry nearly every day since it opened more than six weeks ago. 

With its patchwork, taped repairs, the unstable shelter caught the eye of neighbor Jason Smith, who happens to be a J&K Salvage operations manager. J&K offers a variety of freight and storage container rentals.

Managing volunteer Nycholee Conner, left, introduces first-time visitor Danielle Huyett of Red Lion to the newly designed Little Free Food Pantry on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion Monday, May 18, 2020. Conner orchestrated the transfer of food items from a tent to a donated shipping container over the weekend. J & K Salvage donated the container. Bill Kalina photo

“He said (to me) ‘Would you like a tractor-trailer?’” said Jerry Pilachowski, who runs the pantry in front of his home business, Creation Cabinetry and Sign Co. on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion.

Pilachowski thought a trailer would be too big and requested a smaller option.

“Three days later, we had a shipping container,” Pilachowski said.

J&K manager Matt Bray said a decision to act on Smith's proposal was easy.

“They are doing a good thing for the community, and we thought we’d do a good thing for them,” Bray said. The company delivered, placed and leveled the 40-by-8-foot container.

However, the tables from the tent would not properly fit in the narrower container.

“I took my stimulus money and bought $1,200 worth of shelves,” Pilachowski said.

Conner and Pilachowski worked two 12-hour days, cleaning and outfitting the container. 

Pilachowski ran wiring and mounted some of his old shop lights from the ceiling and installed an air conditioner on a wall he built on one end of the container.

J & K Salvage donated a shipping container to expand the formerly tented Little Free Food Pantry on Cape Horn Road in Red Lion Monday, May 18, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

Conner labeled all the food, stocking it categorically in the new digs.

“She’s put her heart and soul into this,” Pilachowski said of the volunteer, who has worked almost every day since the inception of the pantry in early April.

The number of visitors to the pantry has doubled in past month to more than 100 per day.

"We realized that we were going to be here a lot longer than a couple weeks," Conner said, "so we needed something more permanent to house the food, to help the customers."

The pantry is accepting donations and looking for volunteers. Donations by check can be mailed to Pilachowski at  3265 Cape Horn Rd., Red Lion, PA 17356. The pantry also has a GoFundMe campaign at https://bit.ly/3fXuMWu. As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $2,000 of its $3,000 goal.

The pantry hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Face masks are required.