Thrasher iniates Community Pantry idea to help battle local hunger problem

Posted May 29, 2018 at 2:31 pm

Tonya's Pantry.psd

Tonya Claborn Thrasher is shown above placing canned foods into the Community Pantry she has had placed on the west wall of the Albany Police Department Headquarters. She hopes the pantry will help in a small way with a hunger issue that is a problem in the community, as well as an idea that catches on and is expanded to other communitites throughout the county.

Hunger is a problem in Clinton County that a large percentage of residents have no idea about.

Across Clinton County, like most counties in the Appalachian region, citizens of all ages wake up hungry, spend most of their waking hours hungry, and then go to bed hungry.

While there are programs that help deal with the hunger issue, particularly with school aged children, it’s often not enough to significantly address the issue.

Tonya Claborn Thrasher, like most Clinton County residents, was another citizen who wasn’t keenly aware just how serious the hunger issue was, until she began her current job with the Clinton County Middle School Youth Services Center.

“People don’t realize the hunger issue we have in this county – not only the children, but there are a lot of elderly people here who don’t have enough to eat,” Thrasher told the Clinton County News last week during a brief interview. “I work with a lot of programs dealing with hunger in Clinton County and especially with the children, programs like the backpack program.”

In an effort to do just a little more to help combat the hunger problem in the county, and especially around the downtown Albany area, Thrasher has taken an extra step to not only bring awareness to the issue, but to help directly with the problem.

Last week she watched as a “Community Pantry” was put in place on the west wall of the Albany Police Department headquarters.

A simple wooden box with a glass door and shelves, the pantry has been initially loaded with canned goods that will be available for anyone who passes by and perhaps needs a little extra help food-wise.

“Need a can, take a can – have a can, leave a can” is the concept that Thrasher hopes catches on with the small wooden pantry unit.

“It’s something I’m passionate about because I see the need for food and the hunger issue we have in the county,” Thrasher said. “In my job I see a lot of needs that children have, and food is the number one issue that needs to be addressed.”

Thrasher, who in addition to working at the CCMS Youth Services Center, is also an elected member to the Albany City Council, worked with Albany Mayor Nicky Smith, Albany Police Chief Ernest Guffey, and several other officials in order to get permission to have the pantry placed in its current location.

Thrasher said she initially got the idea about the pantry during a search on the Internet and saw similar pantry units that had been managed in other communities.

After getting plans for a small unit from the internet, she began working with Jason Harlan, the carpentry instructor at the Clinton County Area Technology Center and he and his students constructed the pantry structure using lumber that Thrasher had purchased for the project.

“Jason just did a fantastic job building this for me and I can’t say enough about how good he was to work with,” Thrasher said. “I’m going to have some lettering and signage indicating its a free community pantry put on the front and side.”

She is hoping that not only will this pantry unit be a success in offering a way not only for people with food needs to find a little relief, but also as a way for people to feel like they are giving back to their community to help battle this lesser known problem.

She is also hoping to partner with different agencies in the county and of course with individuals if anyone wants to bring food to put in it – it’s a community pantry.

“Right now, I’m only asking for donations of canned goods – I think that will be the best and be safer,” Thrasher said. “That way there will be no loose packaging or products with lids.”

In addition, she is also hoping it is an idea that catches on throughout the community and she would hope to see other individuals and groups throughout the community be interested in constructing similar styled pantry units throughout the county.

“Hopefully, this is only the first of many that we will eventually see. I hope there will be others who will want to put one out there, like maybe a church group or just people out in different areas of the county, because a lot of people maybe don’t get to come into town very often,” she said, adding that she will gladly assist anyone else who would like to get involved. “If anyone else is interested in building one, they can reach out to me and I will help them with the plans I used to have this one built.”

Thrasher said she hopes the idea truly catches on and the pantry becomes self sustaining with the food that not only she plans on purchasing to get the project off and running, but also with the food donations she hopes to begin seeing brought in and placed inside the pantry.

“That way it will become truly a community pantry,” Thrasher said.

Although the front door to the pantry does have a latch to keep it closed when cans of food aren’t being taken or placed inside, it isn’t locked, meaning it will be accessible at any time of the day or night.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of something that we can see throughout the county and will benefit those in our county who are needing a little extra boost food-wise from time to time,” she said.

Thrasher added that while she doesn’t expect her “Community Pantry” idea to be a complete resolve to the hunger issue in Clinton County that affects citizens of all ages, but instead might be one small effort of hopefully many efforts that will partner together to help eliminate the problem to some degree.

“If it helps just one child, it will be worth the effort,” Thrasher said.