IOWA CITY — Madilyn Vitti wanted to take on a project related to the homeless issue, but as a 14-year-old, she knew a scaled-down idea might be something she could tackle, so she started a “Free Little Pantry.”
“My motto is take what you need, give what you can,” Vitti, a Girl Scout with Troop 8309 and freshman at City High School in Iowa City, said last week.
She came up with the idea for the pantry to receive her silver award with Girl Scouts, which requires a project that gives back to the community. Vitti said she knew a lot of people were struggling in the area of the Free Medical Clinic, 2440 Towncrest Dr., in Iowa City.
Vitti’s idea was to have people donate canned food, non-perishables and toiletries to the pantry whenever they can, and anybody in the community can take out what they need. The advantage of her pantry is that it doesn’t close like other food pantries in the area. It’s accessible 24/7, all year-round, she pointed out.
She proposed putting the free standing pantry box in the parking lot of the clinic.
“People like Maddy makes the clinic what it is, said clinic director Barbara Vinograde, who is excited about the project and thinks there are many patients who have taken advantage of the pantry while they take care of medical needs.
The pantry box was built by Vitti, who plans on being an engineer someday, with some advice from an apprentice with the Carpenters Union Local 1260 in Iowa City. Her mother, Shea Vitti, is an administrative assistant at the union office and she suggested Vitti get one of the carpenters to provide some guidance on the project.
Shea Vitti said it took her daughter several weeks to build, but the pantry was installed outside the clinic in September. She wasn’t surprised Vitti came up with this project.
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“She’s a caring person ... a giver who comes up with ideas to help everyone,” the mother said.
Initially, Madilyn Vitti asked the Church of the Nazarene, which is in the neighborhood, to donate pantry items to provide sustainability, a requirement of the project, but the medical clinic also started donating items.
Vinograde said staff members, volunteers, clinic board members and others in the community also donate pantry items. People have donated canned foods, pasta, rice, granola, shampoo and toothpaste.
Madilyn Vitti said she doesn’t know how many use the pantry on a daily basis, but for the first two weeks after it was installed, she and her mother walked down to the clinic and saw people taking out items.
Vinograde said she has seen the donations grow just by “word-of-mouth” and she knows people are benefiting from the items.
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