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Mirror image of Holly Claycomb Betsy Gallace and Jane Falco stocking their pantry.

A new small free food pantry has appeared in the area, an extension of Providence Presbyterian Church, 2401 Broad Ave. , Altoona.

Modeled after small freebies, one of which also owns the Providence Presbyterian, small pantries are often house-shaped cabinets found outside of churches. The shelf-mounted food inside is free for anyone in need, and for those who don’t need food but want to be a part of the movement, donations can be added at any time by simply opening the door and putting things inside.

That’s what has been happening in the pantry at Providence Presbyterian, organizers said, since it was stocked by church youth and opened April 24.

Jane Falco, a member of the Church and Mission Committee, said she checks the store’s supply every day and was thrilled with the community’s support.

“There’s always new food out there,” She said. “I never see her, she just shows up.”

The small pantry is in memory of Jane’s husband, Andrew Falco, who passed away last year.

Andrew enjoyed working with church soup on Saturday, she said, and instead of flowers, the family asked people to contribute outreach to his memory.

With donations plentiful, I thought using some of the money to expand the church’s access to food would be a good way to remember Andrew.

She said the small pantry will be dedicated on Sunday, May 15th and will have a commemorative plaque placed on the side.

The credit for building the pantry went to Betsy Gallas and her husband, Falco said. “They did all the physical work.”

But, Galasis walked away from any confession, and instead pointed out that the mission committee led the store, they did little.

“We don’t do things to confess,” It’s a way to honor and glorify God and connect to help the community, said Betsy Gallas. Besides, she said the pantry is a solid wood cupboard found in a used furniture store. It already had a glass door and the Gallaces just had to refinish it, make some repairs, and add a roof. The glass was replaced with plexiglass to make it less likely to break. Gallas said the small pantry sits atop a sturdy base made of two SUVs.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into” Galas said: Create the store.

Falco said the store is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone in need.

“If you need something, you can go down and get it,” Galas added.

Through church and community donations, the pantry includes large foods like pasta and sauce, canned vegetables and fruits, cereal, oatmeal, and other food items as well as personal hygiene items like soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, body wash, toilet paper rolls, and more. Those items are in a separate compartment found on the back side of the small pantry, to keep soap away from food, Gallas said.

Falco is pleased that people are using the pantry and is excited to see that others are donating food to help their neighbors in need.

“One day I passed, I thought it was too low and went to the store,” Falco said. “When I got back, it was packed.”

The small pantry movement is a popular nationwide solution, outsourced to the public for immediate and local needs. Whether it’s the need for food or the need to give, small pantries help feed neighbors and feed neighborhoods, according to littlefreepantry.org. Those with small stores can list them on the website, which is filled with photos and short stories about small stores located across the United States.

There are at least two other food pantries in the area, one in Roaring Spring and one at Trinity Lutheran Church, 408 N. Sixth St.

There is no The Porch Pantry at Trinity United Methodist Church, 434 E. Main St. , Roaring Spring, is in a small building, and instead shelves full of food can be found on the covered porch at the main entrance to the chapel.

The store was started during the pandemic to support the community, according to the church’s website.

“Food on the shelves has been provided by members of our church and community and through financial donations. This outreach has been a blessing to many,” Another reads. “Please, feel free to leave donations or take whatever you need.”

What is probably the first small store to be built in the area is still going strong.

The Trinity Lutheran store has been built and operated since 2019 and is well used by Reverend Elizabeth Hess.

“Not only does the neighborhood use it, but the residents of the neighborhood bring in food to provide as well,” She said.

The church has added a small library since the Caring Cupboard was introduced and sometimes the library is filled with food instead of books.

Hess said the church started putting in non-refrigerated milk or powdered milk after learning that one of the boys was getting food for his mother who said he liked Mac n Cheese but sometimes they didn’t have any.

Hess said someone else comes in at the end of the month to get some stuff, maybe to kill himself until the first of the month.

“Our members take great pride in their wardrobe, and are very loyal to it,” Hess said.

Hess said she believes the small food pantries are successful because they are there 24 hours a day and there are no questions asked of the people who use them.

“I think it’s essential that people not be ashamed of needing help,” She said.

Falco couldn’t be happier that people are using Providence Presbyterian Store.

“It was awesome,” Falco said.

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