A not-for-profit organization in Harrow unveiled a fully stocked, walk-in food pantry in town over the weekend.
Co-founders of Project HOPE Windsor-Essex Steve Pomerleau and Taylor Gorick built a 100 square foot pantry, complete with a fridge, for people to step inside and pick up perishable and non-perishable food items. The group officially opened the food centre on Saturday next to the Harrow Arena at 243 McAffee St.
According to Project HOPE, the town has granted their Harrow Community Pantry a five-year lease.
"I think its been a wonderful experience, wonderful response from the public. I'm really excited about it because I think it's a sustainable solution to people not having the necessities and I think it's one of the first of its kind ... so I'm hoping that if this one is successful it will inspire others to do the same," Gorick said.
The couple said it's something they want anyone to use, regardless if you're someone in need or are missing a particular ingredient. They added that people can choose to restock the item if they are able to.
"It's not just for those in need but for anybody in the community ... we want people to not feel like there's a stigma attached to using it," Gorick said.
At this time, Pomerleau said they have stocked the pantry with food donations from the community and used other monetary donations to buy additional supplies.
Volunteers will check in on the pantry twice a day to ensure food items are up to date, adding that they "trust that community will take it on as its own and everyone will feel responsible for keeping it tidy and keeping it in working order."
Pomerleau said the unit itself was built last weekend and cost around $8,000. The time, service and materials were donated by the builders Fortis Group.
Project Hope will take care of the pantry's electricity fees but Gorick said they hope to apply for government grants in the future.
As for up-keeping donations, Pomerleau said locals can drop off donations at the pantry or contact them directly.
They've also developed partnerships with locals in the community such as Mucci Farms in Kingsville, which Pomerleau said has offered to provide a case of fresh produce for the next year that includes tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries.
Project HOPE (Helping Others Providing Essentials) began November 2019 when Gorick and her husband decided to compile 100 care packages with 30 items each and hand them out to those experiencing homelessness in Windsor.
When they posted their initiative to social media, they said they were overwhelmed with support and many people wondered if they could help those locally in Harrow.
In May 2020, Gorick said they officially founded Project HOPE and registered as a non-profit..