"Give what you can, take what you need," is the motto of the Little Free Pantry in LaFayette.
The Walker County school system's Little Free Pantry, located at 201 South Duke Street in LaFayette, is for those needing a little help.
Sha Cumbee, Title 1 administrative assistant for the school system, said she watched a video on Facebook about the Little Free Pantry project and like it.
She spoke to Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines and to Janet Cobb, who gave her the go-ahead to start a Little Free Pantry on South Duke Street.
Cumbee's father-in-law, Randy Cumbee, built the pantry after Hammond Jones in LaFayette donated the materials.
"It was a great idea," Raines said.
During Christmas time, the pantry was installed and since then, it has been able to sustain itself --- when items are taken, more are donated.
Right now, there is the single pantry on Duke Street, in front of the Walker County Schools' administrative office, but the goal is to add more around the various schools throughout the county.
Whether it is one or two items placed into the pantry box, or a larger donation left at the main office, the free pantry continues to thrive, Cobb said.
"The turnover rate is pretty quick (around 30 minutes)," Cumbee said.
Cumbee said people donate the items, which vary from non-perishable goods, toiletry items, personable hygiene items, soap, shampoo, blankets, coats, clothing, to even some fruit and vegetables — all of which is monitored daily.
Anyone is welcome to the items, but the goal is for the goods to go to those in need.
"The kids, when they get off of the bus, will stop by and get snacks in the afternoon," Coordinator of Secondary Instruction CTAE Director Karen Hughes said.
The pantry is checked multiple times per day and Cobb checks on the pantry during the weekends to make sure there are enough items in stock, Raines said.
"We have several folks in the courthouse providing things for it, so they come over and check on it during the course of the day and bring things over," Raines said.
"It is a big community outreach because we also had some high school clubs and organizations that have taken it on as community service (project)," Hughes said. "They collect and come and add items. ... It has really worked out well."
Some donors include students at the Rossville Middle School, the HOSA Club, LaFayette High School, local Girl Scout troops, and various residents and students.
Raines said the students will host canned food drives that go towards the pantry. The goods are then taken to Walker County schools, where they are stocked inside and added to the pantry as needed.
The pantry is refilled each day with an assortment of goods, Raines said.
So far, there have been no reports of abuse at the pantry and residents will come by, get what they need, and often return the gesture by replacing it with new items themselves.
Having the pantry near the Walker County Sheriff's Department helps to keep the pantry from being abused as well as the lighting around the pantry at night, Raines said.
The pantry isn't just for the homeless, but for the elderly, those struggling throughout the month as the bills mount and need help with supplying groceries and — really — anyone in need of just a little help.
"I don't think that people realize how many people in our county are under privileged," Cumbee said.
Raines said Ridgeland High School also has a free pantry inside the school that the students run and partake of the items themselves.
"We also let them use the showers in the locker rooms, so kids come in early before school starts and they get warm water (because they do not have it at home). We allow them to do that. We make up little bags that has soap and shampoo and those kind of products and they just take them up to the field house and we even have kids who wash their clothes at school because they do not have washer and dryer access (at home)," Raines said.
The Little Free Pantry in LaFayette is just a start. The goal is to have the area high schools construct more of the pantries that would be placed throughout the county as business like Hammond Jones continue to donate the building materials.
Raines said he is very thankful to Hammond Jones for donating the materials for the current Free Little Pantry, as well as all of the other voluntary donators.
Once the pantries are constructed, they would be placed at the schools throughout the county, including the north and south ends, to continue to fill the need of those who need it.
To learn more about the Little Free Pantry community service, visit littlefreepantry.org.
Anyone wanting to learn more about the local Little Free Pantry and/or to donate are asked to leave a message with Cobb by calling 706-638-7949, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.