This is the time of year that we are all looking for inspiration. The new year means renewed hope for the planet, fighting the pandemic, and ways to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Due to the pandemic, there are a lot more people looking for help these days, whether it’s finding a job, shelter, or even food.
I recently learned that a young girl by the name of Lizzy Lester went above and beyond, during the holidays, when she heard that people were being negatively impacted by the pandemic.
How old are you?
Do you live in the city of Buffalo?
I understand that you started a food pantry?
Where is it?
The front lawn of our house.
When did you start it?
Where did you get the inspiration?
I was watching TV and I saw that people were helping out. So I thought of some different ideas. The food pantry sounded like a good idea. I told my parents, and then went to my uncle’s house – he’s a construction worker. We took an old dresser, took off the drawers, put on doors, and made the pantry. My uncle gave me some good ideas – we put shingles on the roof to weatherproof it, and I followed the directions of my sister (who is a good artist) to paint the sides. Some of my neighbors helped too.
What’s in it?
There’s lots of canned fruits and vegetable, boxed food, cup of noodles, and pancake mix (for example). On Thanksgiving, there were 10 turkeys with all of the fixins, 10 pumpkin pies, and on Christmas there were 20 ham dinners with all of the fixins.
Where does the food come from?
Mostly donations from friends, family, and neighbors. Or I fill it myself, if it’s low. People will drop things off, along with notes. They drop off canned goods, treats, dog food… and above the pantry there’s space for baby food and treats for dogs. I keep all of the notes in a scrapbook.
Who has helped you most?
Definitely my mom and dad, for supporting the ideas.
Will this end after the holidays?
In the new year, I will try to keep it going even past COVID, for people who are in need of food.
Do people drop things off other than food?
There’s a little place for gifts, hats, gloves, and blankets.
What has the response been?
Amazing. Much better than I expected. Someone left a note on our porch with a $100 bill. My friends and family have donated through Paypal. I use the money to get food, and support the WNY Food Bank, along with the WNY Animal Shelter.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
COVID really started me doing it. But my cousins all go to Ellicottville, and we set up a lemonade stand when we go. We take the money and donate it to worthy causes.
Were you nervous, or did you just go for the gusto?
I was kinda nervous, but also very excited. I didn’t know how how people would take to it – it’s been much better than I expected.
What do you want to be when you’re older?
I have no idea.
What’s a wish that you have for the New Year?
That COVID ends.
After speaking with Lizzy, I hopped on the phone with her mom, Laura. She told me that when Lizzy first came to her and her husband with the idea, they wrote it off initially, thinking that she would forget about it soon enough. But she persisted. And she ended up spearheading the project, and taking on the responsibility to run the pantry.
“The community also stepped up,” said Laura. “The kids in the neighborhood helped paint it – Lizzy’s sister designed the sides (see below). The people who live in the neighborhood have helped to keep it going. One lady showed up on Christmas Eve and and gave us an envelope with $5 bills to put in the pantry from time to time – she came all the way from Wheatfield when she heard about the pantry. It just goes to show the goodness of people during a tough time. It perpetuates the goodness of the neighborhood.”