As the coronavirus pandemic forced thousands of Washtenaw County residents out of work, Ypsilanti resident Tosha Estermyer found a way to fill some of the needs in her local community.
Six weeks ago, Estermyer started a 'no questions asked' community pantry. What started out as a single table at the end of her driveway has expanded to six different tables filled with food, cleaning supplies, and toiletries for people in the community that are in need.
Estermyer said the pantry has been really successful and that community support has allowed it to grow.
"The community support has been phenomenal in terms of keeping it going . . . people drop off food daily; not a day has gone by where someone hasn't dropped off at least a couple boxes of food. It's been a mixed venture of people dropping things off and people giving us monetary donations for us to go purchase items that go the fastest," Estermyer said in an interview with the Echo.
The pantry is available every day of the week, and if it's raining, Estermyer said she can have pre-bagged items ready if the need is there.
Estermyer said she thinks the pantry is unique in that it is no questions asked. There are no forms to fill out, and anyone can come take what they need, when they need it. No registration required and no strings attached.
"I leave it up to their heart, what they need they can grab," Estermyer said.
On an average day, around ten families utilize the pantry, according to Estermyer. Some days have been even busier, and around half of the daily visitors are returning families. Some people return every three to five days to pick up some items for their home.
A mom of seven children, Estermyer and her family sort through donations, package donations, and ensure the tables are set up and stocked every single day.
"I'm a homeschool mom and we have seven kids, so between us, we are sorting stuff, we're making sure [the tables] are set up; when it's raining we make sure that we tear everything down to get everything protected and put away, but the table is set up everyday," Estermyer said.
Estermyer said she plans to run the pantry indefinitely. "We do not have an end date. As long as there is a need and there is community support to keep up with that need, we plan on keeping the tables up," Estermyer said.
Toiletries, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, and meal kits such as hamburger helper have been the most in-demand so far. The pantry has even had some fresh produce at times. Anyone interested in donating can drop off non-perishable food or other items in person, and contactless donations are an option. Monetary donations are also welcome and can be dropped off or mailed.
The pantry is available at 5981 Big Pine Drive in Ypsilanti. Anyone in the area with a need is welcome to use the pantry as a resource.