Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell

KINGSTON–Emma’s Little Free Pantry has barely been up for a week, but already, it’s made a difference to someone in need.

A man whose home was destroyed by fire at Lucas Meadows mobile home park on July 31 sent the girl responsible for the blue kiosk a letter expressing gratitude for the gesture of kindness.

Inside that box, he found food, hygiene products and other necessities to help him get by for a few days.

Emma Stafford, 8, could not be happier. The Saugerties girl, after all, encouraged her father to build it for that purpose.

“I know that there are some people who really do need some of this, so it’s really nice to help them out, and it makes me happy helping them,” she said.

Emma’s Little Free Pantry stands on the front lawn of Pestmaster Services of the Hudson Valley at 75 Lucas Ave.

Emma's Little Blue Box Doing World of Good in Kingston

Emma and her father, Adam Stafford, stand beside the free food pantry they built and just installed outside Pestmaster Services on Lucas Avenue in Kingston. Photo by Paula Mitchell.

Adam Stafford, Emma’s father and Pestmaster’s operations manager, took a recent Saturday afternoon to build it. Emma stood by his side for three hours, assisting in any way she could.

Materials included plywood siding, roofing shingles, door handles and hinges as well as posts and concrete.

Stafford, who has carpentry skills, even installed a light in the box for those who choose to sort through it under the cloak of darkness.

Emma said the idea for it came as the family was vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina about two years ago.

“I had seen a little library that looked kind of like that, and I told Daddy I wanted to do that. We eventually did and decided to put some other stuff in there to help people besides just books, so it’s like a pantry and it has some books,” she said.

Paul Alley, the owner of Pestmaster, said he was all for the idea. In fact, his wife, Amy, spent $100 for the first round of mainly personal items like bath wash, feminine hygiene products and toothbrushes.

“The next morning, 99 percent of the things were gone,” Amy Alley said. “It was all stuff that you really need but can’t get from a food bank.”

Her husband took such an interest in it that he personally reached out to Diane Reeder, the former operator of the Queen’s Galley soup kitchen.

“She suggested that we put a lot of hygiene products in because, with her background helping the homeless and less fortunate, she was able to give us some insights into what’s really needed,” Alley said.

“There are plenty of food pantries around town and plenty of library book pantries, but she had explained that hygiene products are like gold. Apparently, she was right.”

Alley, who has been in business for 18 years, even wants to take Emma’s idea to another level.

“We’d like to try to do this like Saugerties has their lighthouses and Port Ewen has their tugboats,” he said.

“I challenge the city of Kingston to do this as a project.  Businesses can build it and supply the materials… and we can get the artists involved like at the O+ Festival and let them decorate them and have an auction. The businesses can get their publicity from them, while, in turn, helping the community and the artist industry as well. Let’s be known for our food pantries in Kingston.”

For now, the Grant D. Morse Elementary School student is just happy that the little, blue box already is serving its function.

It’s been restocked at least three times since being installed at Pestmaster Services, and many people are learning about it through social media or just driving by. Some have even stopped to leave donations.

An emblem on the box encourages that give-and-take concept. It reads: “Take What You Need. Leave What You Can.”

Emma reiterated the happy feeling it gives to help neighbors in need.

“If anyone needs food, now there is a pantry. It makes you feel good to help out,” she said.




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