AURORA -- In the unassuming parking lot of Aurora Baptist Church stands a small wooden box on a post filled with non-perishable food.
When Rachel Lane, a paramedic in Benton, decided to make the box, all she could think about were the people in her community who were hungry.
"Times are hard on people," she said. "Some of the food pantries are only open on certain days, so what about those days in between if they don't have something to eat?"
The box, also known as a Free Little Pantry, resembles a large birdhouse and is protected by a glass door with a small latch. There is no lock on it. The food inside is for anyone who needs it. Canned goods. Macaroni and cheese. Bottled water. The contents are determined by anonymous donors.
The pantry is set in the church parking lot so people picking up food for themselves or their families can be discreet.
"The reason we keep it discreet is because some people are embarrassed to go to pantries to ask for food," Lane said. "This way, somebody can just take it out and go about their way. People wouldn't know if they are putting food in or taking food out."
Heath Mims, pastor of Aurora Baptist Church, said when he was approached with the idea of setting up the pantry in the church's parking lot, he discussed it with members, and they unanimously agreed to allow it.
"It's a good way for people to have their needs met and for people to be able to help others without really having to go too far out of their way," Mims said.
The Little Free Pantry was constructed in front of three crosses. According to Mims, that was done to help remind people of their spiritual need as well as their physical need.
"This thing is more than just a can of soup," Mims said.
He quoted 1 John 3:18, then summarized, "Don't tell me you love me, but show me you love me. If we are going to be a Great Commission church and tell people about the love of God, then this is a way that we can show our love for them."
Mims didn't take credit for the pantry, however.
"I'm no more responsible for it than anyone else," he said.
Neither Mims nor Lane has filled the pantry with food, yet every day food is taken out and is replaced.
"It was overflowing," Lane said. "People are just paying it forward with stuff, just stocking it left and right. We haven't had to put food in it."
The idea came about when one of Lane's friends saw a group of people on television who had done a similar ministry in Arkansas. Now, having set one up in Aurora, Lane said her phone has been ringing constantly from people who are interested in setting up a Free Little Pantry in their area.
Lane has been in discussions with several area churches and is set to put up another pantry at the Benton Fire Department.
"Even if you don't have the money to help, you can get a few things out of your pantry if you want to do that," she said. "It's just showing that you care about your community."
Anyone interested in setting up a Free Little Pantry can contact Lane via her Facebook page called 2nd Chance By Mercy or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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