Lauren Ehnebuske, left, and Bob Wallace stand next to the food pantry that Ehnebuske designed and Wallace built outside the Port Townsend Food Bank. The pantry offers free non-perishable food items any time of day or night. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Lauren Ehnebuske, left, and Bob Wallace stand next to the food pantry that Ehnebuske designed and Wallace built outside the Port Townsend Food Bank. The pantry offers free non-perishable food items any time of day or night. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Free food pantries open around the clock

Structures are filled with non-perishable goods and toiletries

PORT TOWNSEND — While the Port Townsend Food Bank is open two days each week, one of which is reserved for seniors 65 or older, a well-stocked pantry just outside is open all day, every day.

“I had someone call today and ask if the food bank was open,” Shirley Moss, manager of the food bank, said Thursday afternoon. “I had to say, ‘No, not until next Wednesday, but we do have a new, free pantry available any time.’ ”

Drawing from the food bank’s stockpile, Moss filled the pantry for the first time Wednesday afternoon with peanut butter, sunflower seeds, body wipes, coffee, crackers, vegetarian jerky, Pepsi, pasta, and cans of fruit, tuna fish, spaghetti sauce and cream of mushroom soup. And that’s just a taste.

“This is great for the homeless because they can only take a certain amount with them at a time,” she said. “This way, they can stop by any time and take whatever they need.”

A pantry outside the Port Townsend Food Bank is stocked with non-perishable food items free for the taking at the corner of Blaine and Walker streets in Port Townsend. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

A pantry outside the Port Townsend Food Bank is stocked with non-perishable food items free for the taking at the corner of Blaine and Walker streets in Port Townsend. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Moss said she took the needs and limitations of the homeless population into consideration when she stocked the pantry. For example, although many do not have facilities for cooking, some do, such as those who are camping at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, she said.

And while she plans to keep a close eye on what people are taking and what they aren’t, Moss said a major benefit is that it serves anyone and everyone anonymously.

“I’ll never know who uses it or who doesn’t,” she said, “but I do want to keep track of what people take and what they don’t so I can keep it well-stocked with things they like.”

Several food bank volunteers began talking about the need for a pantry about a year ago, and volunteer Randy Rosens initiated the effort, Moss said.

The nearly 8-foot-tall, wheelchair-accessible structure with three walls and a roof is the second such pantry in Port Townsend and the fourth in Jefferson County, according to an interactive map of more than 1,300 pantries in six countries at LittleFreePantry.org.

It is the 11th on the North Olympic Peninsula, which has six in Port Angeles and one in Forks.

It’s design, however, is unique. While most resemble the Little Free Library design of a cabinet-like enclosure atop a 4-by-4-inch wooden post mounted in the ground, this pantry sits inside a 4-by-4-foot shed complete with a rain gutter and a roof sloped to the same angle as the Mountain View Commons building it sits beside.

Plus, it’s painted the same shades of yellow and red as the building beside it.

“It’s beautiful, and it’ll be around for a while,” said Port Townsend architect Lauren Ehnebuske, who donated her time to design the structure and submit plans to the city in order to obtain a building permit.

“You can take so much more care with a project when the bottom line isn’t a factor,” she said.

Discovery Bay resident Bob Wallace, who volunteers at the food bank on Saturdays, took her drawings and began construction after the permit was issued in late June.

“Even though it’s a three-sided shed with a roof on it, the city saw it as a place where many people would go to obtain food,” Wallace said of the need for a permit.

The fees for the permit were “graciously” waived by the city, Moss said, and Wallace used his $1,200 federal stimulus check to cover the cost of materials.

Other food bank volunteers — including David More, Elizabeth Lyon, Lisa Jones and Randy Lyon — assisted in making the pantry a reality, Wallace said.

After several city inspections and many hours of volunteered time and effort, Port Townsend’s newest pantry sits stocked with non-perishable food items free for the taking at the corner of Blaine and Walker streets.

Port Townsend’s other pantry can be found at the corner of Cleveland Street and Hospital Road in a sitting area between Dove House and Jefferson Healthcare. It was established in September 2019 thanks to a donation by the family of the late Susan Shelton, a longtime Dove House supporter.

Jefferson County is home to two more pantries as well. One is at the Chimacum Grange at 9572 Rhody Drive, and the other is at Irondale Church, 681 Irondale Road in Port Hadlock.

Clallam County has seven.

In Port Angeles, six operate under Compassion Clallam County, which can be contacted at compassionclallamcounty@gmail.com.

They are Compassion Clallam Little Pantry, corner of Fourth Street and Cherry streets; CHI Little Free Pantry at CHI Student Housing, 1134 E. Park Ave. (donations aimed at students/college students especially appreciated); LFS Little Free Pantry outside Lutheran Family Services office, 2634 S. Francis St.; Holy Trinity Little Free Pantry, 301 E. Lopez Ave., on the southeast corner of the parking lot shared with North Olympic Library System; Neighborhood Little Free Pantry, 1140 W. Ninth St., corner of Ninth and E streets; Center for Spiritual Living Little Free Pantry, 254 N. Bagley Creek Road, between Port Angeles and Sequim.

In Forks is the Mariposa House Little Free Pantry at 81 Second Ave. To contact organizers, email benji.astrachan@wsu.edu.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at njohnson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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