INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly one year into the pandemic and the need for food pantries is on clear display through DeAndrea Rayner's community pantries.
"At first, it started off with an idea and the community picked up on it, and now I have two community fridges and over 10 dry-good locations," Rayner said.
WRTV first introduced you to Rayner in the fall of 2020, 2 months after she launched the Indy Community Pantries, a no-contact and take-what-you-need free food pantry system set up across the city. Now a half year later, numerous Hoosiers are relying on donations from Rayner. She said she can stock the shelves in the morning and the goods are gone in a near-instant.
"They're empty every day. So, we restock it every other day and people come and take it," Rayner said.
Rayner gets most of the food donations from the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center, any extras come out of her own pocket. So far, she's partnered with two local businesses that allow her to plug in a refrigerator outside, including one set up along the Red Line on the south end of the city.
"This is Vogue Galleria; they sell wedding dresses. I reached out to her and she welcomed me with open arms to host a fridge. So, she keeps up with the maintenance and the temperature of the refrigerator," Rayner said.
For the past six months, Rayner has been filling this fridge every single day, stocking it with a little bit of everything. But in those six months, she's picked up volunteers who are now helping her serve the community.
"It's amazing. I have over 25 volunteers that just do it out the kindness of their heart because they love what I'm doing. They take time out of their day. Sometimes they even buy the groceries and stock the fridges and the pantries themselves," Rayner said.
Crystal Burton is one of those people. She first noticed Rayner's pantries on social media.
"I thought it was awesome! From day one I thought it was a really, really good idea and I wanted to help," Burton said.
After six months the efforts of Rayner and helpers like Burton have not gone to waste. They've proved to be appreciated by Hoosiers simply needed something to eat.
"Just a little bit ago, we had a guy walk up and he took some meat and some bread and something to drink and he turned around, he must've seen me smiling and he said 'Oh thanks! You guys are really a blessing. I've been eating out of this fridge for the last couple weeks.' That just made me smile and let me know what she was doing was the right thing," Burton said.
You can learn more about The Indy Community Pantry and its locations at https://www.indycommunitypantry.com/