In April 2021, more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country, a community pantry popped up in a well-known street in Quezon City. Soon after, a lot of other communities across the country followed suit. Not everything was smooth-sailing, especially since many organizers are still newbies at handling such projects.
Over time, however, the bayanihan spirit prevailed and community pantries proved to be quite helpful.
If you’re interested in starting a similar initiative, the efforts of those before can act as a guide.
You can also keep in mind the tips below:
Determine Your Goal
The primary goal of the above-mentioned community pantry was to provide food for the less fortunate.
However, you can also create a different kind of pantry. For example, you can focus on providing a medical pantry for over-the-counter medicines and vitamins.
The key is to think about other needs that your community might want access to—perhaps hygiene items like sanitary pads and diapers for babies? Do you want to focus on just rice and clean water for cooking and drinking? Figuring out this detail can help significantly with planning. It will also determine how much money you need.
Figure Out How to Get Funds
Speaking of money, whether you’re raising funds to start a community pantry or perhaps helping pay for someone’s medical bills, you need a simple, secure way to receive cash donations. How can people send money to you in the most convenient way? A great option is to set up an e-wallet account. This way, you don’t have to open a new bank account and you have somewhere to send cash donations that are completely separate from your personal finances.
You can also get in touch with local government units, charity organizations, and perhaps humanitarian groups, so you can secure more funding.
Make a List
Once you have a solid plan and some funds, the next step is to itemize everything you need to set up your initiative. If you’re going for a community pantry, then you’re going to need the actual supplies, and perhaps some tables or shelves for displaying the items. You should also have boxes or bags ready, so that those who don’t have their own containers have something to put the goods in. Prepare items such as hand sanitizer and masks for hygiene, as well as a first-aid kit.
For online concerts, you’re going to need proper audio and video equipment. For charity sales, you’ll need a payment acceptance method, an inventory system, and a proper website or social media page to upload the products for sale. Of course, these are just examples. Make sure to prepare a much more detailed list of everything you’ll need so you don’t forget anything.
Last but certainly not least, no matter the initiative, remember to prepare reports for accountability and transparency.
Enlist the Community
It’s difficult to establish and run a community pantry and other similar projects by yourself. Indeed, it’s right there on the name: community! Enlist people like your neighbors and other people in your area who are willing to help. Post on social media that you’re looking for volunteers, and ask your friends and family to share, so you can get the word out faster.
Once you’ve gotten the sign-ups, create a social media page or a chat group for members, so you can easily coordinate. Prepare a list of tasks or roles and then let people choose which ones they’d like to fulfill. Perhaps someone is a skilled graphic designer who can create a professional-looking sign or infographics. If there’s an accountant in the group, they can help with the business side of things. There’s always someone willing to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
Pick a Method of Distribution
For community pantries specifically, you need to determine how you’re going to disseminate the
products. There are two ways to go about this: letting the people pick what they need or having pre-prepared bags or boxes. If you want something more simple, the latter is the way to go. With pre-chosen items, you don’t have to set up shelves to display the products. However, make sure to inform people about the contents. This can help ensure fairness. Those with allergies or other food requirements will also be informed.
Meanwhile, the “choose your own” method gives people more autonomy. It helps promote honesty and integrity. It also prevents waste, since people won’t end up getting things that they don’t want or need.
Try to Accommodate Different Schedules
No matter what kind of community project you’re trying to initiate, remember that both those who will volunteer and those who will benefit have different schedules. Thus, make room for as flexible a schedule as you can. This way, those who want to help will have the time to do so and the beneficiaries also have wider window hours to join in.
What’s great about community pantries and other initiatives is that you can conduct them anytime, pandemic or not. It will take a bit of effort, of course, but the rewards will be more than tenfold!