Season of Thanks: Bristol's Little Free Good Pantries

An act of kindness in Bristol is having a ripple effect and bringing strangers together.

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Lisa Glazier knows how it feels to need a helping hand.

“I’m a school bus driver,” the lifelong Bristol resident said. “So every summer, I'm on unemployment, I have to hit the food pantries, I get it, I understand it. I've been doing it for 20 years, I have no shame in that. I get food from other people, and I give to other people.”

So as unemployment surged in the community because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Glazier felt compelled to do something.

“Near our library in Bristol, we have a box for free books that kind of looks like a birdhouse, and I started thinking, why not a box for free food? And so I've stuck one in my yard by my driveway. And someone else posted about it, and it took off.”

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photo courtesy Lisa Glazier

Glazier and her 8-year-old son Joey started repurposing old hutches into free food pantries as part of his Boy Scout community service project. Now thanks to a local Facbeook group, it’s becoming an even bigger mission.

While driving to work at ESPN, Marcus Patton noticed one of the pop up pantries on Overlook Ave. Inspired by the concept, he immediately drove to Stop and Shop and purchased bags of groceries to restock the pantry shelves.

“I was very, very, very inspired by what she did. I was inspired by the opportunity, you know, that I had to contribute,” said Patton. “And then I was I was ultimately it was a realization that with, you know, this problem (of hunger) isn't going to go away.”

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Marcus Patton purchased food to donate to the pantries (photo courtesy Marcus Patton)

Patton posted about the pantry in the Bristol Talks Facebook group, encouraging others to donate and spread the word. Soon, Glazier started receiving more requests from neighbors willing to host pantries on their properties.

Glazier and Patton still have yet to meet in person, but met for the first time virtually in a joint NBC Connecticut interview via Zoom, where Patton offered to help Glazier through his work on Bristol’s diversity council. Both would like to see the pantries become permanent fixtures in the community.

I hope it never goes away because the times are different for everybody,” said Patton. “Initially, until now, I thought this was a Thanksgiving thing. Knowing that the hope is that it doesn't go away is way, way better.”

Anyone is encouraged to take what they need, and donate what they can. So far Glazier’s pantries can be found at the following locations in Bristol, with more coming soon:

  • 23 Gridley St
  • 58 Overlook Ave
  • Corner of Divinity and Rockwell
  • 49 Earl St/Crown St
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