By Jody Cohen

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, it’s especially hard to be hopeful. But a family in North Phoenix has found a positive way to deal with this crisis.

Nellie Klooster, her husband and their toddler son have created a neighborhood “pantry” in their front yard on 24th Street and Laurel Lane, and the response has been very successful. Klooster says that many neighbors have donated items in a short period of time, and it has built up so much that they went from one small shelving unit to two shelving units, bins, boxes, and a small table. Some donated items include: health care and baby products, kids’ entertainment, snacks, treats, fresh eggs, herbs, citrus, canned goods, juices, boxed goods like pasta, rice, grains and cereals, dried and canned beans and legumes, books, stuffed animals, housekeeping products, cat and dog food, cat litter, batteries, and water.

Klooster says, “We want to help our neighbors, especially those who don’t have access to food or don’t qualify for food banks, so that they don’t have to go into the stores.”

The neighborhood pantry started the day after her husband’s job was furloughed, and like numerous other Americans in a similar situation, they were concerned about how they were going to provide for their family. Due to her son’s asthma and a newborn baby at home, they can’t shop as freely as they once could. However, she realized that they have what they need, while others may not.

In order to share with others, Klooster immediately set up one shelving unit in their front yard and stocked it with extra items she and her son found in their house, like canned goods and paper products, and the pantry was born. Neighbors donate items daily and can converse with each other via Recently, a Facebook page was created: North 32nd Little Free Pantries.

The main supporter of Klooster’s pantry is her 3-year-old son, who does most of the work, along with his dad. “On the first day, he went into his room and picked out a few items he wanted to give,” Klooster says of her son. “Every morning at 8 a.m., he helps put out the pantry, and every night at 7 p.m., he helps put all of the items back in the garage.” Klooster added that her son also helped her make signs: “Neighborhood Pantry”; “Take what you need, Leave what you can” and “Have a Blessed Day” so that people can quickly identify the items.

Besides the pantry, Klooster says that she’s working on making an appreciation box for nearby firefighters. She’d like to donate snacks, quick meals, and drinks, and have the neighbors write thank you notes. And when the crisis passes, Klooster wants to work with schools and churches in the area to create a free pantry and library.

Klooster adds, “We want to send the message to everyone that when you are able to share and give, to do so.”

Other ways you can help and share in your neighborhood include: shopping and running errands for seniors and the disabled; making masks; and donating to other neighborhood pantries throughout the area. Some other fun ideas include teddy bear sightings in front windows, painted rocks in yards, and chalk sidewalk drawings to view while out walking for exercise while practicing social distancing.

Jody Cohen is a local freelance writer and an independent licensed and certified Medicare plans specialist and educator who specializes in helping Arizona seniors and the disabled understand the healthcare options available to them in the Medicare platform. She offers a complimentary, thorough needs analysis and reviews the most cost-efficient plan to ensure that medical needs are met with a preferred provider network, and prescription costs are kept to a minimum. Jody also helps her clients capture all the social programs available to them, and advocates to protect their rights. Jody can be contacted at [email protected] or 602-326-4264.


Area Food Banks and Local Resources

Whether you are in need, or in a position to help by donating, below is a list of local resources.
Be sure to contact each location for more information, including specific hours of operation.

Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank
602-867-9228 • 10862 N. 32nd St.
Assistance available for those living within the boundaries of the Paradise Valley School District.

Harvest Compassion Center
602-788-2444 • 4744 E. Thunderbird Rd., Ste. 9

Oasis Community Church
602-494-9557 • 15014 N. 56th St., # 1

Mom’s Pantry
602-992-0083 • 13440 N. Cave Creek Rd.

St. Mary’s Food Bank
602-242-3663 • 2831 N. 31st Ave.

Operation Care
602-866-0135 • 1827 W. Grovers Ave.
(Located in the white building behind the church.)

Joy Bus Diner
602-595-5884 • 3375 E. Shea Blvd., C1
*Currently closed but continuing their meal
delivery program to homebound cancer clients. Accepting monetary donations only at this time.

Coronavirus Phoenix Business and Resident Resources

2-1-1 Arizona Agency Statewide Resources