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Spartanburg teen creates Little Free Pantry to feed homeless

Anne Dobson Ball didn’t turn away when she saw a need in downtown Spartanburg. The 17-year-old Spartanburg Day School senior took action that is impacting the lives of her neighbors.

Last school year, Ball often picked her sister up in the evening after basketball practice.

“I was seeing the same woman every night pushing her bike,” she said. “She had all of her stuff hanging off of it. I was freezing just in my car.”

Ball looked for a way to help. One of her teachers sent her information about creating a Little Free Pantry, a small cupboard containing food and other items that could be taken as needed.

“It’s like a Little Free Library,” Ball said. “It’s in a public place, but you fill it with food instead of books.”

Ball ran with the idea and started seeking a spot that would be convenient to those who needed it. In the process, she got a lesson in the red tape that can often cause projects to stagnate, but she persevered. Ultimately, Ball turned to her church for help.

“It was getting very defeating,” she said. “I go to First Presbyterian, which is downtown.”

She proposed the project to her church and was told it would take a few months for a decision. Instead, she was on track to move forward in just two weeks.

“It was really exciting,” she said. “One of the things I love the most is that it is in front of the building used to serve dinners to the homeless community every Tuesday night.”

The site also has a Little Free Library.

“People are there every week, so they know it’s there,” Ball said.

Spartanburg Day School has also supported her efforts, allowing her to use a storage room at school and holding supply drives.

In addition to food, Ball includes “period packs” from the Homeless Period Project, which include menstrual hygiene items. Ball has volunteered at the organization’s “period parties,” packing pads, tampons and wipes in plastic bags for those in need.

As word has spread about the location, Ball said others in the community have contributed as well.

“Now when I go, there are things that I didn’t put there,” she said. “One time, I went and there were gloves and hats and socks, and they were gone the next day.”

Though the effort makes life a bit easier for those it serves, Ball said she has been changed by the process of making it happen.

“The biggest takeaway I’ve had is that things do not go the way you plan,” she said. “It was a great learning experience. It got put up six months after I wanted to, but that was fine. It got there, just not as fast as I was expecting.”