As a teacher at Bruns Avenue Elementary School, Jennifer Harrison understands the importance of food for her students for many reasons. First, she is a single mom herself with four sons ranging in ages from 15 to 22.
“They are like nothing else, boys and food,” she said.
And second, she has been around the vital mission of food pantries for years. Her parents, Lee and Tom Condit, have been married for 50 years and their ministry has always been the food pantry at Harrison United Methodist Church.
“A week ago, even during this shelter in place, Mom spent her 75th birthday working in the pantry,” Jennifer said in wonder.
So when COVID-19 began threatening the food security of many low-income families of Bruns, Jennifer knew she needed do something. When a school volunteer, Lindsay Rocco, asked how she could help, Jennifer suggested a food and toiletries drive.
On March 20th, Lindsay sent a text to all the moms on her son’s lacrosse team as well as to her knitting group asking for help for Brun’s families
“I was blown away by the support,” Lindsay said. “Boxes and boxes of stuff started arriving from Amazon and people dropped off at my house, too.”
The food and even hard-to-find toilet paper immediately helped 20-25 families. “Lindsay and her friends were angels,” Jennifer said but she also knew the need would continue. So many families don’t have transportation to get to community pantries and Jennifer realized there could be a months-long need given the health and financial crisis.
That’s when Jennifer had an idea. “Room 108 is normally a tutoring lab, but now, it was empty. Why not make it an onsite pantry?”
Using her experience from her parent’s church mission work, Jennifer set to work re-purposing the tutoring lab. Chairs were cleared and tables marked “Grains, Veggies, Proteins, Fruits, Pastas and Sauces.” She marked space for Toothpaste, Detergent, Feminine Products and even the always impossible, Toilet Paper.
As Jennifer made way, the donations rolled in spurred by her good friend Jennifer Pattison who asked all her Facebook friends and the Blakeney Racquet and Tennis Club.
“Jen is a good, Italian mom,” Jennifer Harrison said of her friend. “Her passion is feeding people.”
In only three weeks since the pantry was born, Jennifer imagines almost 1500 pounds of food and toiletries have been donated. She can’t even begin to guess the dollar amount but the generosity is extraordinary.
“People have been lovely reaching out and asking how they can help,” Jennifer said. “Even an offer of a warehouse if we need to store our food!”
Jennifer is clear to point out how this effort is much more than one person and how so many people have come together to make this idea work.
“This food pantry belongs to Bruns and our families,” Jennifer said. “That’s all God—I am just a vessel.”
Want to help?
This Google Doc has all the Pantry needs information for drop off at the school: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18KNUgxha_cuGagHdXtDcYlTUUiAKT6UF2gPvALAUZcI/edit
If you would prefer to order and ship items through an online grocery order site, please ship to:
Attn: Food Pantry, Bruns Avenue Elementary School, 501 S. Bruns Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28208
email@example.com and write FOOD PANTRY in the subject line.