Shortbread Girl Scout cookies, sliced peaches, mustard and noodles are all ingredients kept in a pantry outside the Chaska Moravian Church.
Combined, they are a recipe for success.
Six Girl Scout members from Chaska Troop 1554 worked together Tuesday to pack the Little Free Pantry with nonperishable food and toiletries on the busy intersection in the downtown area of Chaska.
In their uniforms covered in badges, they formed a line to fill the pantry and organize the items inside.
“The most popular items are the basic necessities like the shampoo, conditioner and lotion,” Justine Meyers, 11, said.
The troop of sixth-grade girls started the pantry to give back to the community. Each day, one of the girls selected for pantry patrol will check on the pantry and restock it with supplies.
They voted to bring the pantry to Chaska after searching for a topic that would cover their bronze award, one of the highest honors for junior scouts. They’ve spent the year researching and planning to unveil their pantry. Designing the pantry was a team effort, and one of the girls’ dads volunteered to construct it.
“We all voted on it and decided this was the best thing to help the community,” Zoey Myers, 11, said.
In the past, the girls would collect and donate food to the local food pantry. This year, they decided to start their own pantry that would be open 24/7.
The girls had a slow start when they placed the pantry outside the church in early August. Now, community members are helping stock the pantry and hungry residents are finding what they need.
“We had more givers than takers,” troop leader and mom Stephanie Boeckers said. “We really had to work extra hard to get the word out for people who need it.”
Effort built on Facebook, bingo
The girls handed out pamphlets in the county government center, churches and libraries to spread the word about their project while troop moms kick-started a Facebook page to communicate with the community.
To first stock the pantry, the sixth-graders held a bingo event with scouts from other troops and asked them to donate food. They were able to use that stockpile to fill the pantry and collect more than 300 canned goods.
Troop scouts also collected items of their own.
“Me and my grandma went to the dollar store and bought 30 things,” Sydney Boeckers, 11, said.
Jenn Welvaert, office administrator for the church, has seen daily activity at the pantry from moms filling it up to locals taking a look inside and community members taking much-needed items.
“It’s sort of like a revolving door with people coming and taking a meal or two or some personal supplies,” she said.
The girls gave a talk to the church before installing the pantry. They chose the location based on the church’s involvement in giving back to the community.
“They are such a great influence in our community,” Boeckers said. “We have done other events there. They really want us to succeed.”
The pantry is located near a busy intersection and close to a local nonprofit that supports homeless youths.
“We didn’t have any idea of how much traffic we would get,” Boeckers said.
Inside the pantry, the scouts created a list of rules. Community members are encouraged in English and Spanish to take only one or two items at a time.
The scouts hope their project will be sustainable.
“We were hoping eventually we will not have to stop by every day, that it would be a self-sustainable community resource,” Boeckers said.