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Micro pantry helps Seneca fill the gaps

Seneca is the latest community, and the first in La Salle County, to put up a micro pantry created by Morris resident Jeff Eberhard. The free 24/7 pantry is at 256 S. Main St., adjacent to Riverside Chiropractic.
Seneca is the latest community, and the first in La Salle County, to put up a micro pantry created by Morris resident Jeff Eberhard. The free 24/7 pantry is at 256 S. Main St., adjacent to Riverside Chiropractic.

Seneca residents are ensuring there’s something to eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week for whoever may need it in their community.

No questions asked.

A micro food pantry built by Morris resident Jeff Eberhard was put up at an adjacent building next to Riverside Chiropractic, 256 S. Main St. The chiropractic office and its front desk supervisor Kathy Haralson oversee the pantry.

Similar to the Little Free Libraries in various locations across the region, a micro pantry allows residents to leave and take nonperishable food, instead of books, from a cabinet left unlocked and outside.

Everything from cereal, cookies, granola bars, bread, crackers, canned soup, boxed food, hygiene and baby products, among other items, fill the cabinets.

Commissioner Jeff Olson was instrumental in bringing the micro pantry to Seneca.

“I thought it would be a great thing for the community,” Olson said. “We don’t have a lot of homeless, but we have a lot of people in need for a variety of reasons.”

Olson said the idea of the micro pantry is to complement the village’s food pantry.

“Our food pantry does an excellent job,” Olson said. “This is a way to help people who might be reluctant to go to the pantry, or fill out paperwork, or might need just temporary help.”

Eberhard, who runs E-Z Auto Sales in Joliet, has put up 18 mini pantries throughout Will, Grundy and even Cook counties.

Plans are to bring the micro pantries west. He is trying to finalize a spot in Marseilles, and Crossbridge Community Church in Ottawa is interested in overseeing one.

“I’ve found it works best when you have an entity or group adopt it,” Eberhard said. “That way it doesn’t sit there doing nothing, people can continue to stock it, keep it clean, and it can thrive and make a difference.”

Eberhard — who was honored by Joliet Junior College for his community service work that also includes saving pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House and providing holiday meals for seniors — was inspired by a mini pantry he had seen on the West Coast. He wanted to reach out to a demographic he knew was out there that wasn’t getting help for a variety of reasons.

He’s seen single mothers and veterans, as well as those who once took from the pantry but started giving back to it weeks later.

“There’s no requirements,” he said, saying he doesn’t want to pass any judgments on anybody needing the help.

Haralson said the pantry ended up in front of the chiropractic office because she brought the idea to Dr. Christa Velos, who also happened to be Eberhard’s neighbor. Velos and Eberhard had talked about putting up a micro pantry in front of the Seneca office, but it came full circle when Haralson mentioned the idea.

Haralson said the free nature of the pantry may help children who aren’t getting enough food at home grab snacks before or after school.

She organizes the pantry every morning, noting she pulled out a loaf of expired bread Monday morning. She said Velos and Dr. Sean Gibbs at the office have helped keep the shelves stocked, but she sees community members contributing.

“We have a caring, giving community,” she said. “If we get too much, or the donations become too generous, we’ll funnel it back to the food pantry or give to Packs for Pals (at Seneca schools).”

Haralson and Olsen plan on spreading the word through Facebook and fliers around the village.

For more information on Micro Pantries and their locations, go to facebook.com/MicroPantries.

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