The Williston Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Williston program is known for promoting projects that encourage community involvement. One project from this year’s class is teaming with the library and some pint-sized painters to help prepare for its unveiling.

The project is Little Free Pantry Williston, and it was created by Lakin Mahar, operations supervisor at First National Bank in Williston. In Mahar’s project statement, she said the purpose of the project was to bring the Little Free Pantry, already an established program in other parts of the country, to the Williston Area.

The pantries are similar to the Little Free Library, which are housed in various individual’s yards and businesses around town. The pantry would contain various non-perishable items, stocked by the community, for use by those in need. Mahar said the goal is for people to “give what they can, take what they need.”

For her project, Mahar said the focus was to establish at least one pantry, but she said she hopes that the community will continue to grow the idea and create more in the future. Mahar purchased the pre-built kit after securing donations from an online fundraiser, and connected with Andrea Placher, Williston Library Director and former Leadership Williston graduate. Placher offered to house the pantry at the library, and as a board member for the James Memorial Art Center, decided to recruit some artists to take the plain white pantry and turn it into something truly unique.

“I thought that it would be good for (the library) to partner with other organizations,” Placher told the Williston Herald. “Again, that’s the library’s mission, we want to expose all these different organizations and get people excited about them. So, being on the James board also, I thought why couldn’t we marry all three of these organizations together and have the James’ art kids do some art on the pantry.”

The call went out to the rest of the James board, and Vivian Kalmik, children’s art coordinator for the James, brought in some students from some of the previous art classes she has taught to add their artistic flair to the pantry.

The kids spent two afternoons painting the various sides of the pantry, creating a tapestry of artwork that shows the range of talent that each student has. Among other things, lowers, animals, spaceships and Van Gogh adorn the pantry, which will remain in place for about a year at the library, before Placher says another organization will get the chance to decorate the pantry.

The library sees over 130,000 visitors each year, a fact that Placher said blew the kids away and made them excited that their work would be exposed to so many people. The pantry should be in place by the end of the month, Placher added, with a grand unveiling to be planned shortly thereafter. As a place where many people come to find the resources they need to better their lives, Placher said she felt very strongly about partnering the library with this project.

“Our mission, pretty much all libraries missions, is to fill a need of someone that might not be able to have access to those resources otherwise.” Placher explained. “Libraries strive to be non-judgmental. We don’t care what your situation is, what your background is, we don’t care about your race, religion, creed, whatever. We are here to genuinely help everyone.”

Placher said when she hard about Mahar’s project, she knew it was something the community could benefit from, and is glad that she is able to be a part of making it a reality.

“There are a lot of community members out there that are in need,” Placher said. “And a lot of times I think we kind of forget about them. This is just another way to help people who are maybe afraid to ask, maybe don’t know who to ask, or maybe some kids that aren’t getting what they need at home. So this is something that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no questions asked, for everyone.”

For more information on the Little Free Pantry, visit littlefreepantry.org or the community Facebook page at www.facebook.com/littlefreepantrywilliston or contact the Williston Community Library at 701-774-8805.

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