By Karolyn Gephart
Friendswood has a Little Free Pantry and it was created by an 8 year old with the help of parents and friends.
A Little Free Pantry is like a Little Free Library with the rule take what you need give what you can. The Friendswood location has had toilet paper, paper towels, canned goods, baby food, cereal, and notebook paper, depending on the day.
Alexandra Castillo is the creator and the idea came to her after what happened when her mom went to the store to get flour to make cookies. Her mom had shared with her the problems of finding toilet paper and certain food items but they were both surprised at the flour also being in short supply.
“My mom went to the store to buy flour so we could bake cookies and she couldn’t find any at three different stores. She ended up having to go to Sam’s and buy a big giant bag. Now with everyone needing to stay 6 feet away from each other I wanted a way to help other people get the food and things they need. My mom went on Pinterest and showed me examples of Little Free Pantries. That’s when I asked her if we could make one,” Alexandra said.
She was familiar with the concept since her neighbor has a Little Free Library.
But the cost of building one stopped the project at first. Alexandra and her mom found plans but cost made it almost not happen.
“We went on Facebook and on Nextdoor and asked if anyone had spare materials or an old cabinet that we could use. Brady Burnett with Burnett Realty reached out to my mom and said he had an old cabinet door. That made me excited he was giving me the door,” Alexandra said.
Then he surprised her. He and his father ended up building a cabinet to go with the door.
“I wanted to give him a big hug but because of social distancing I gave him an air hug. Then my dad and brother put the post in the yard and put the cabinet on it,” she said.
Usually, the pantry has toilet paper, canned food, pasta, paper towels, toothpaste, mouthwash, baby wipes, baby food, cereal, notebook paper, stickers. Alexandra sanitizes the area several times a day so people do not have to fear touching it.
“When it gets too hot in the summer I will put chalk, bubbles, and other things for people to enjoy their summer,” she said.
Anyone can donate and there is no limit on what can be taken out.
“We just put random stuff in it. I went in our kitchen cabinets to get it started and then other people started donating,” Alexandra said.
The response has been great and people are donating items directly to the pantry or if full, leaving them at the front door. Notes of appreciation have been arriving on her door, in the pantry, on NextDoor and Facebook.
But giving to others did not stop with the pantry. She is already involved into doing more.
“I have been making face masks to donate (I already donated over 300 masks) and when people ask if they need to pay I said no but they could donate something to put in the pantry,” She said.
Alexandra attends Wedgewood Elementary. Her favorite subject is math and her career plans are to be a softball coach and because of her love of elephants, a zookeeper.
She encourages other children to make a difference.
“I have my own platform Alexandra’s Secret Smiles on Facebook and #1SmileMade on Instagram. I want to show others that children can make a difference. I host kindness challenges throughout the year, surprise neighbors, and do random acts of kindness. I want to make a positive difference in the world. My motto is “Never Underestimate the Power of a Smile,” she said.
She is the daughter of Julie and Robert Castillo of Friendswood. The Little Free Pantry is located at 16334 Forest Bend Ave. in Friendswood.