Story by Ammie Bryant
While many soon-to-be sixth graders were having fun soaking up the sun this summer, seven local Girl Scouts built Pioneer Pantry donation boxes for three Stillwater schools to help their fellow students.
The Pioneer Pantry is a resource for Stillwater Public School students to get items that they need. There are times when students do not come to school or they have a difficult time learning in school because they do not have access to basic items that others might take for granted. The Pioneer Pantry helps students at all Stillwater Public School sites get items such as hygiene or household products, clothing, and even food.
According to an article by Kira Frisby in the December 2017 issue of Stillwater Living Magazine, “25.27% of adults and 22% of children are considered to be below the poverty rate in Payne County. Living in poverty can make purchasing everyday hygiene items difficult, because there is usually very little money left after paying bills and purchasing food and gas. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a single person spends about $36 per month on personal care products and services and a family of four spends $77 a month. Many families are not able to purchase these items for themselves or their children due to this cost burden.”
Students are encouraged to take what they need when they need it and give what they can when they can. Students may go to the health room or nurse’s office at each school site to acquire items or teachers can make requests on behalf of students. All of this is available confidentially.
When Girl Scout Troop #643 learned about the Pioneer Pantry they wanted to help. The girls were inspired to build the boxes after seeing the donation box that had been built by local Boy Scouts for the High School. So they reached out to the other schools in town to see if any of the other schools wanted donation boxes. Three schools were interested. Girl Scout Allison H. said, “We made wooden boxes to go into three schools: Stillwater Middle School, Stillwater Junior High School, and Highland Park Elementary.”
At many school sites, students and their families do not realize that the Pantry exists. Donation boxes serve two purposes. Girl Scout Kairi B. explained, “Pioneer Pantry boxes are not only to store things in but to tell people about Pioneer Pantry because lots of us didn’t know what it was. And now hopefully more people will know and bring things to donate.”
Troop #643 paid for the building materials for the project through a generous donation of $500 from the Masons. They also had help from local DIY blogger April Rutherford of uncookiecutter.com. “We did most of the assembly,” said Zoe N. “[April] came to a meeting first and she helped us plan it. We had to research making them. We made a budget.”
With April’s guidance, the girls also executed every step of the project, with each contributing a minimum of 20 hours. “It was hard to do but also really fun,” said Girl Scout Margaux M. “We learned a lot of stuff about making the boxes, wood-working, how to drill pocket holes, use a power drill, stain and sand [the boxes], and attach hinges.”
The girls also learned how to work together and prioritize activities and tasks to finish the project. “We had to give up some things to make it happen,” said Girl Scout Maryam A.
Once the boxes were finished the girls and their families pre-stocked the boxes with commonly requested items before delivering to each of the schools on September 27th, 2019. “Things they always need are deoderant, shampoo, conditioner, and easy to cook items in jars or cans that do not take up a lot of space,” explained Girl Scout Grace H. The Pantry also needs “plain t-shirts of any kind and all sizes. Something generic that makes them fit in.”
The Pioneer Pantry is for all students not just those who demonstrate a financial need. Students do not have to prove they need something to benefit from donations. Girl Scout Shay G. knows from her own experience, “[There’s] a big benefit to bring clothes to the Pioneer Pantry boxes. One day it was raining and I got splashed and soaked and I had to change using clothes from the Pioneer Pantry.” But even though Shay was able to take advantage of it, it was difficult to find items that would fit her so she encourages people to donate items of all sizes from extra small to extra large, “Sizes are important.” Sweatpants are a great donation because their fit is more flexible across a variety of shapes and sizes.
Girl Scout Troop #643 encourages readers to donate the Pioneer Pantry during this season of gratitude and giving back. The following items are commonly needed at all Pioneer Pantry locations: men’s and women’s Deodorant, 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry soap, NEW in package underwear and socks, plain t-shirts, sweatpants, new and gently used tennis shoes, pony-tail holders, canned soup with meat, mac and cheese, canned tuna, canned chicken, single serve food items, peanut butter, and jelly.
Pioneer Pantry is sustained entirely through donations. People can contact their school’s office or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about requesting or donating items.