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Pop-up pantries helping Medina County families during pandemic

Posted at 9:31 PM, Mar 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-28 23:22:45-04

WADSWORTH, Ohio — An father-son project that started out as a way of helping the Wadsworth community during the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading into neighboring Medina County communities.

Jeremy Lowe wanted to assist residents in a time of great uncertainty and decided to build wooden pop-up pantries with his 14-year-old-son, Caeden. Three of the boxes are up in various parts of Wadsworth. A fourth is under construction.

The words "Take what you need. Leave what you can" are written on the doors of the pantries, which measure two by three feet.

"We just thought during this time, we needed to do something to help our neighbors," Lowe said. "The town response has been enormous."

Lowe posted the idea on the Wadsworth Neighbors Facebook page and has been overwhelmed by the generosity of neighbors. The pantries are filled with canned fruits and vegetables, bread, crackers, peanut butter, jelly and other food. Other donations have included diapers, formula and toiletries.

With many people out of work due to business closings brought on by the coronavirus, the community need is great. When the pantries run low, residents quickly fill them back up.

"It's really cool that we can take care of people just by doing something simple like this and then other people can contribute to it," Caeden said.

The social media post grabbed the attention of Wadsworth firefighter Curt Lauer, who built more pop-up pantries. Two of them are in Seville, including one at the Seville Fire Station. Another box was erected in Rittman and two more could go up in Chippewa Lake soon.

"It's just another way to give back to the community at a time when we don't know what's going to happen," Lauer said.

Lauer's wife, Robin, said she's amazed by how many people are pulling together to help others.

"This, to me, helps because people that are in a bad situation right now may be too proud to ask for help. They can come here at night. They can come here in the middle of the night. It's lit up. It's protected," she said.

The outpouring of support is spreading beyond the needs of people. A similar pantry for pets was set up at Seville Animal Hospital. Seville Fire Chief Brad Winter said that was his wife's idea.

"We are all pet lovers and stuff like that, so my wife said we need to get something out there for pets too," Winter said.

The Medina County residents believe each box celebrates community togetherness. It's not clear if the pantries will remain once life returns to normal, but the lessons of kindness are meant to last a lifetime.

"At a time of crisis, it's really a silver lining that we're teaching our young ones that some of the greatest things that we have to give is love and compassion," Winter said.

To learn more about the Wadsworth Neighbors Facebook page, click here.