The Resource Pantry is open for its second year at WCU and is ready to serve students in need with open arms. Located on the bottom floor of Commonwealth Hall in the old Counseling Center suite, the Pantry is intended to serve both undergraduate and graduate students.
“They can be a non-traditional or traditional student, on-campus or off,” said Gabby Singh, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and the WCU Resource Pantry coordinator. If there is a need, the Pantry does its best to meet said need through its stock of donated nonperishable goods, fresh organic produce grown on the South Campus Garden, toiletries, laundry detergent, school supplies and professional attire.
The Pantry is open to students every weekday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with extra hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays when its doors are open until 8 p.m. Enter through the outside doors labeled “Student Health Center.”
Students who find themselves “food insecure,” in need of a winter coat, a stick of deodorant or professional attire for an upcoming interview may visit the pantry whether they had a hard week between paychecks or on a repetitive basis with no limits to the number of visits per semester. All that is required before shopping is to fill out a basic intake form.
“No one is turned away,” reassured Singh.
There is a sense of respect at the Pantry. The staff understands its students aren’t charity cases. “We try to keep [the Pantry] a shame-free zone,” says Singh, whose office floor is lined with a half-dozen backpacks along the wall ready to be filled and schlepped around campus.
Singh says several administrators, through connecting with their students, found there was a hidden yet definite need for a place like the Pantry we have today. They banded together, and from finding office space to serving its first student, the Resource Pantry was established in just seven days last September. It was first housed on the second floor of Lawrence, but the move to Commonwealth Hall allows for easier access and more space.
The Pantry served 47 students during the 2016-17 school year and has already served double that number this year. There is a significant population of high-need students at West Chester University. There is also a group of students at West Chester that does not have a home when the dorms close for winter and summer breaks.
The items most needed but least donated are personal care items, especially toilet paper, women’s deodorant, laundry detergent and toothbrushes, but Singh asks that anyone interested in donating to contact the Pantry emails firstname.lastname@example.org before dropping off goods. The Pantry wants to keep its influx of donations diverse and has limited space to store donations.
If you would like to volunteer at the Pantry, there are ways to get involved. Singh says because the Pantry handles a sensitive matter and strives to keep its participant’s identities confidential, you can’t serve students directly. However, volunteers are always needed in the South Campus Garden (behind the South Campus apartments at the end of the Ropes Course Path; volunteer hours are on Thursdays and Fridays from 2 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).
The Resource Pantry will be launching a two-week Anniversary Food Drive kicking off on Sept. 29. Donation bins will be available across campus in all academic buildings.
Additionally, the Pantry will be hosting an open house on Oct. 13 in conjunction with the Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs, also housed on the bottom floor of Commonwealth. They will be doing a collaborative art project, providing tours and serving. Light refreshments on a first come, first serve basis, but all are welcome.
If you are someone who may be interested in taking advantage of the Pantry’s resources, there will be an outreach event on Oct. 11. The Resource Pantry will be hosting a cooking demonstration to further instruct and answer any questions about cooking produce and making nutritious meals. Dinner will be provided.
Singh asks anyone with questions or interest in the Pantry to either stop by during its hours of operation or email Pantry@wcupa.edu for more information. You may also make an appointment on the Resource Pantry’s website, www.wcupa.edu/pantry.
Amanda Mills is a fourth-year political science major with minors in communication studies and Spanish. She can be reached at AM836938@wcupa.edu.