A Marshall School senior hit the nail on the head with her senior project. Delaney Kreager, 18, constructed a Little Free Pantry and installed it at Superior's Ruth House, a nonprofit ministry serving the homeless, on Friday, July 24. She left a pile of red clay and a standalone pantry brimming with food and hygiene supplies.
“We’ve filled it about five times already,” Ruth House Director Chrissy Foster said Tuesday, July 28.
That was good news to Kreager.
“I knew that there would be a need for it, but at the same time I didn’t expect it to be such a high need,” she said.
The items are available to people after hours, people who are under the influence (Ruth House is a sober drop-in center) and those who might be uncomfortable walking in to ask for help.
“It’s been really neat to watch people use it,” Foster said. “It’s a wonderful idea. She hit the nail on the head.”
Stephanie Breitzmann, a volunteer involved in the Ruth House housing program, called it a blessing.
For Kreager, a 2020 Marshall School graduate, the project combined her passion for building and tinkering with a desire to help others. The Duluth teen initially considered building Little Free Libraries for the community. She chose a food pantry instead, in part because of her connection with Ruby’s Pantry.
Kreager’s father, Brian, is one of the coordinators of the Ruby’s Pantry distribution site at First United Methodist Church in Duluth, and the teen has been volunteering there since she was in third grade.
“You don’t realize how many people, how many of your neighbors, could really use something like that until there is something that exists like that,” Kreager said.
She found blueprints for a Little Free Library and tweaked them to make the larger pantry version. It was built using repurposed scrap wood the family had on hand and shingles from another one of Kreager’s projects: a treehouse for her brother. She bought the hardware and hinges herself, and dug down 3 1/2 feet through red clay to install it. The project took about 40 hours to complete.
“It feels good to have finished it and have it be successful,” Kreager said. “You don’t necessarily want something like that to be successful. At the same time, if there’s a need for it you really do.”
The largest cost associated with the project was the food and hygiene items to stock it with. Adding hygiene items made sense to Kreager.
“We take it for granted the fact that we shower and we have deodorant and toothbrushes, toothpaste,” she said. “We take it for granted, those everyday things that a lot of people don’t have and could really use.”
She chose to put the pantry at Ruth House because she was looking for an organization that is doing a lot of good in the community.
Ruth House is a drop-in center where people can take a shower, do a load of laundry and make connections. The ministry provides treatment assessments as well as GED assistance and tutoring, and helps those who are homeless overcome barriers to finding work and housing. In the winter, Ruth House offers an overnight warming shelter.
Kreager currently works at Menards and is planning to attend Lake Superior College this fall for aviation maintenance technologies. She’s mulling the idea of planting another Little Free Pantry in the area.
Donations are accepted any time. People can just place items in the pantry at 632 Grand Ave. or drop them off inside Ruth House. Food donations should be nonperishable and easy to open.
“I think it’s just important to remember that it could be anyone in that situation that could need to use the Little Free Pantry. It could be your neighbor; it could be anyone in your community,” Kreager said. “If you have the opportunity, it’s a really good thing to do because it’s going to benefit your community and the people around you.”