Photo by Katie Roof
MILO Roof fills the Little Pantry he and his mother, Katie Roof, constructed, installed and now maintain on May Street at Good Medicine Center for Healing Arts. Milo had help from his father, Dylan Forrest, and grandfather, Doug Roof, pictured, in the pantry’s construction. The pantry is for anyone in the community to use — whether that’s giving or taking the items found within.
For Katie Roof and her son, Milo, 7, community service is a tangible, everyday affair.
The two have built and installed, and now maintain a Little Pantry, located on May Street next to Good Medicine Center for Healing Arts, owned by Nikol Angel Clark and Randy Goetz. As far as Roof knows, it’s the only one of its kind in Hood River — though she hopes it won’t be the last.
The philosophy behind the Little Pantry is simple: Give and take.
“This is designed to be self-sustaining,” Roof said. “Anybody can open it and put items in or take items out at any time. There are no hours, no lock, no nothing. As the sign on it says, take what you need and give what you can.”
The hope, she said, is that the pantry benefits those in the community who need it the most — such as low-income families, neighbors experiencing a rough patch, or the homeless.
Roof got the idea while walking home after dropping Milo off at May Street Elementary last year. As she passed a neighborhood Free Little Library, she wondered how that basic concept — give and take — could be applied in other ways.
When she got home, she opened up Facebook and sat down with a cup of coffee — “A rare luxury on a weekday morning,” she noted.
“And, I kid you not, the second post that was on my newsfeed was a post that a friend had shared that was about this little free pantry idea. I was blown away by the timing and felt at that moment the universe was staring me in the face. I couldn’t NOT build one,” Roof said.
She shared the notion with Milo, a second grader, who also liked the idea. The two then enlisted the help of her parents, Karen and Doug Roof, and Milo’s father, Dylan Forrest.
Karen and Doug assisted with the purchasing of some supplies and providing workspace, and Forrest joined Doug and Milo in putting the pantry together. Milo and Roof painted the finished piece and made the sign, which reads, “Take what you need, give what you can/Toma lo que necesitas, regala lo que puedes.”
Clark and Goetz are friends of Roof’s, and she approached them first about placing a Little Pantry on their property, chosen for its visibility and close proximity to May Street Elementary, and sounding them out for other ideas.
“They immediately embraced the opportunity and we moved forward with our plan together,” Roof said.
The Little Pantry has been up for a few months now — since Oct. 1 — and Roof sees it as a way for all community members, regardless of age, to help those in need.
“It is exciting to stop by to add items and to see things in there I haven’t before,” she said. “That means it’s working! But it can use more contributors. Anything that won’t spoil and is safe is welcome. It was lovely to even find a rose in there one day.”
Canned and ready-to-eat foods seem to be most in demand, she said — she gets pull-tops so a can opener isn’t required — as are items such as ravioli, tuna fish and spam. Granola bars, pop tarts and trail mix — she places individual packages on the shelf so people can just take one or two — also go fast, as do hygiene items, diapers and menstrual pads. Pasta and rice don’t disappear quite as quickly, but do get taken, she’s noticed. And she’s recently started adding hand warmers.
She’s still figuring out what items benefit people the most, and is thinking of putting in a suggestion board or box to pinpoint what people hope to find when they open its doors.
Sharing the experience with her son is the best part about the Little Pantry project, she noted.
“I think it’s pretty great that Milo can help me pick out items and put them in there himself,” she said. “Then we swing back by and see that what we put there is gone, and can feel good knowing that someone out there is better off for our efforts. And maybe even someone we know.”