OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — What started out as a pandemic passion project for Jennifer and Adam Parker quickly turned into a full-time job. After 15 months of growth, the Tiny Pantry, created to feed people in their neighborhood, is now registered as a nonprofit organization as of September.
“We’re trying to get this grant written in the spring so that we can actually market with other pantries in the area so that we can network," Jennifer Parker said. “I never would have dreamed that it would’ve taken off like this. The first two weeks I thought we were gonna go bankrupt.”
Parker says her project was able to expand thanks to a community of people willing to give. A neighborhood group was created on the Nextdoor app where donors can share information to benefit the pantry. Within two months, the pantry was self-sustaining, and as of now, the group has over 400 members.
“You give to charities and you donate money and it goes off, but this is just so real,” said donor Beverly Hill. “It really changes your perception about the kind of people that you might stereotypically think of as homeless. But to work with them and understand stories — they all have stories like everybody does, you know.”
The Parkers have adopted nine more families this holiday season to help with Christmas celebrations, and donations are already pouring into the couple’s living room. Last year they helped a recipient pay off a $5,000 payday loan.
“If you looked at my poor front room, that’s the outpouring of generosity from our group,” Parker said.
Loni Kuriakose says the pantry was her family’s saving grace during a difficult time.
“It was really hard for us during the pandemic, and even with a job, being a single mom with three kids, it was really hard,” Kuriakose said.
Parker says she sees a younger version of herself in people who come for assistance. She had a college degree with no job, eating ramen and Pepsi to pay for her child’s formula.
“That kind of always stuck with me. I know how difficult it is to feed yourself and still pay the rent, pay the utilities, put gas in the car," Parker said. "Because I have that empathy, this has become very important."
The pantry remains open 24/7 and is restocked at least three times a day. The Parkers are always accepting donations, especially paper products — like toilet paper and paper towels — not covered by food stamps.
They are always in need of canned meat, over-the-counter medicine and personal hygiene products.
Donors can drop off donations at their home 7215 W. 71st Street in Overland Park or give monetary donations through their Venmo or PayPal accounts.
For any additional questions, email Jennifer at email@example.com.