Free Little Pantry: Big help to those in need in Villa Grove

Submitted Photo
Amelia Willams stands with her Silver Award certificate in front of her Little Free Pantry

By Tony Hooker 
Most high school girls like to hang out with their friends.  Maybe they play in the band or sing in the chorus.  Some choose to participate in girl scouts, as well.  

It’s what Amelia Williams does when she’s not hanging with her friends or performing in marching band or singing in the chorus that makes her special.  

You see, while working on her silver award for scouts, Amelia saw that Villa Grove had a need, and then she put all of her effort, hope and time into filling it.

The result of her hard work?  The little free pantry.  A place where those in need can find food and those that aren’t in need can share their blessing.  I recently caught up with the VGHS sophomore and her mother, Sonya, to find out more about this amazing girl and her amazing project.

What is the Little Free Pantry?

It’s a place where you can donate nonperishable items like food and toiletries.  When you’re in need of those things, you can find them there.

What was your inspiration for creating the LFP?

I was doing a girl scout project, and one of the requirements was that it help the community, and so I asked my parents if I could look up ideas, and they helped me find that.  

Is this a national thing, or just a local thing?  Are there other little free pantries in the area?

There are. I know there’s one in Champaign or Urbana.  

Tell me about the girl scouts.  What was this project for, specifically?

It’s for a Silver Award.  There are different levels that you can earn.  For the silver award, you have to do something to help the community.  You have to spend a certain amount of time working on it, and it has to be something that you keep up. It’s not just a one-time thing.  

What’s the highest award you can receive in the Girl Scouts?

It’s the Gold Award.

You’re one step below the highest? Are you planning on achieving that?

Yes.  

How long do you think that will take?

<Sonya Williams> We’re hoping to get that done by next summer.  She has to get her plan done and decide what she wants to do. 

What is the gold award?

It’s also to help the community.

All of these awards area about giving back?

Yes.

How many people take advantage of your little free pantry?  

I’m not sure how many, but a lot of people have talked to me about donating to it, or it is helping them out.

<SW> It’s used, probably every day.  

That’s going in and coming out, every day? 

Yes.  Every day.

Do you have an estimate of how many pounds of food that have gone in and come out?

<SW> I have no idea! It’s been emptied out and re-stocked every day.

Are there any particular food items that you look for the most?

<AW> Canned food items, mainly nonperishable food items.

<SW> Mac and cheese will not stay in there very long at all!  As soon as we get any kind of boxed mac and cheese, it’s gone within a day.

How do people find you?

Mostly through Facebook.

Where is it located?

It’s at our house, at 406 First Street. 

What do you do when you’re not doing things with the scouts?

Our youth group at the Faith Baptist Church in Champaign does activities, and I go to those.  I go to school. 

You’re involved in your church and in scouts.  What other activities do you participate in?

I’m in band and in chorus.  

<Hooker> I am so impressed by how much the band has improved this year!

<SW> They had band camp this summer, and I think that really helped!

<AW> We have more kids now, and that really has helped, also.

What is your favorite subject in school?

Probably choir, but other than that, I like English and Spanish.

So that’s Senor Baumann, right?  Who’s your English teacher?

Mr. Kestner.  

He’s new to VGHS right?  You guys aren’t giving him too hard of a time, are you?  <laughing>

No! <smiles>  

What’s your future hold?

I want to go into something with music.

Performance or teaching music?

I’m not really sure yet.  

Have you heard about Music Therapy?

I have!  I’ve considered that. 

Where do you think you got this sense of giving back to your community?  Have you always had it?

I’m not sure.  

Do your parents set an example by giving back to their community?

Yes.

What are their names?

Sonya and Timothy Williams.

How has this project been received?  

<SW> it’s been going really well.  People have been contributing to it without me asking, most times.

I had surgery a few weeks ago and I didn’t really put any thing out for a month, and I still had things going and coming out without me posting picture updates or anything.  It’s been very well received by the community.  

Do you involve any of your friends?

<SW> Her girl scout troop has done a few things where we’ve contributed to it.  We’ve brought stuff to meetings to put in it.  We’ve had a lot of people from our church give us monetary donations, since we live so far away.  We’ve gone to Meijer when they’ve had their 11 for 10 sales and bought things to stock it with. 

It’s apparent that Amelia and her family are doing their best to live the girl scout motto.  They are trying to serve God and their country (and community) and helping people at all times by being prepared and doing a good turn daily.  What a great idea.

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