The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock
Parishioner Sharon Busteed drops off food to restock the Little Free Pantry at St. Joseph Church and School in Fayetteville April 5. (Travis McAfee photo) Karina Wilhelm, 13, works Feb. 8 to build the Little Free Pantry for the grounds of St. Joseph Church and School in Fayetteville. (Adriana Graham photo) Spencer Katz (left) and his brother Riley Katz, both 14, smile after stocking the Little Free Pantry at St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville. A note was recently found taped to the pantry, thanking those who donate. (Judy Katz photo) Father Josh Stengel (left) and two parishioners work on getting the little church “sharing box” installed outside Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock in November 2018. (File photo, courtesy Our Lady of Good Counsel Church)

A Little Free Pantry is a no-contact way to help

Free non-perishable food a lifeline for some individuals, families during pandemic

Published: April 30, 2020      
Adriana Graham
Karina Wilhelm, 13, an 8th grade student at St. Joseph School in Fayetteville, stands March 12 on her church grounds with the Little Free Pantry she helped get started.

Little Free Pantries are small stand-alone structures typically stocked with non-perishable food, personal care products and school supplies. Items are free, with the motto, “Give what you can. Take what you need.” During this time of uncertainty with COVID-19, they are a vital assistance for many. More information is available at


St. Joseph Little Free Pantry


Started earlier this year by eighth-grade students Karina Wilhelm and brothers Spencer Katz and Riley Katz, part of a community project before graduating from St. Joseph School in May, the pantry on church grounds has been a “lifeline,” mother Judy Katz said during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, a note of thanks was left saying in part, “I would not be eating if it wasn’t for you. I love you, thank you. I’m not very religious, but God bless.”

They have partnered with the Fayetteville Masketeers, eight families working together, including the Katz family, to make and give away cloth masks in northwest Arkansas. When extra monetary donations come in, they’ve brought food to keep the pantry stocked. However, Judy Katz said, what is needed most is personal hygiene products. Dentists who can donate toothbrushes or toothpaste, or those who can donate small soap or other hygiene products, would be appreciated. The pantry is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s flying off of the shelves; I can’t keep up. That’s what’s hard,” she said of hygiene products.


St. Michael Blessing Boxes

Van Buren

In January 2017, two blessing boxes were put on the grounds of St. Michael Church in Van Buren, stocked with non-perishable groceries, personal care and first aid items. They have since combined into one box that parishioner Emily Dickinson stocks a few times a week, along with four other volunteers. Dickinson, accounting assistant for the parish, also shops for groceries when monetary donations come in, which can be made out to St. Michael’s and mailed to the church office, earmarked for the blessing box ministry. She also writes out recipes to go along with certain canned items, like chickpeas.

“Right now, it’s kind of hard to get as many canned goods as I’d like because it’s been limited” on how many cans a person can buy in store, Dickinson said.


The Little Church of Blessings

Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Little Rock

The pantry began on the grounds of Good Counsel Church in November 2018 and remains stocked by parish secretary Hannia Bejarano, along with anyone who brings donations.

“I think people are hyper-aware the situation is precarious so they’re doing a great job of stocking it,” she said, adding need has increased since the pandemic. “... We’ve had a couple of neighbors come in and say … ‘I’m really sorry, I don’t mean to bug you, but I’m in dire need.”

Non-perishable items and personal care products typically fill the pantry, but Bejarano said there’s a need for more products like toilet paper, diapers and wipes.

“I think somebody had made facemasks and put them in there at some point. Anything pandemic-related, we recommend people put it in there,” she said.

We hope you found this story interesting. If you appreciate the news, features and reliable information brought to you by Arkansas Catholic, could you make a secure online donation to help support our mission?

Please read our Comments Policy before posting.

Article comments powered by Disqus