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Colorado Springs Woman Operates Popular Little Free Pantry on Westside

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Hailey Radvillas started a Little Free Pantry on the west side of Colorado Springs to help her neighborhood in a direct way. The pantry, outside her home, is part of a network of Little Free Pantries across the U.S.




Skyler Ballard, The Gazette


A tinier than tiny house stands on Hailey Radvillas’ front lawn on the west side of Colorado Springs.

Her Pikes Peak Little Free Pantry, with its gabled roof and giraffe-pattern paint job of blue, green, purple and magenta, and plexiglass doors that open to reveal two shelves, is part of a network of Little Free Pantries across the U.S. She’s registered on the website littlefreepantry.org.

The addition to her yard grew out of feeling hopeless as she watched the pandemic rage on, and friends and co-workers lose loved ones and jobs, while civil unrest filled our collective consciousness.

“I was learning more about mutual aid and people helping each other, and not getting into the business or government side of things,” Radvillas said. “The need is real. Mutual aid is the biggest thing we, as Americans, have control over and can help each other with. I’m not going to give because I feel bad. I’m going to help because I might need help and we’re stronger together.”

Inspired by the Denver Community Fridges and The Love Fridge Chicago projects, which offer refrigerators filled with packaged and store-prepared meals and fresh produce, Radvillas began her own mutual aid project at the end of January. She put a set of drawers from a thrift store in front of her house at 516 W. Pikes Peak Ave., across from Western Omelette, hoping to take advantage of her location — close to downtown and two major trails, which see a lot of foot traffic. She filled the drawers with shelf-stable food and toiletry items, and watched it take root. Her plan worked — nowadays, people come and go almost on the daily, leaving and taking donations.

Matthew, a 68-year-old homeless man, rolled his two bikes up to Radvillas’ house on a hot September afternoon. He hopes her husband, who started fixing bikes for free this year, can help him out. He’s no stranger to the pantry; it’s a handy source of food and other needed items, as he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“They save me from starving,” Matthew said. “They take good care of people, children and dogs.”

Today the pantry’s two shelves are somewhat bare. There are packages of pasta, cans of tomato sauce and a cardboard box full of individual servings of sunflower seed butter. Menstrual pads perch in a corner. A heavy duty drink cooler filled with fresh, cold water rests on the sidewalk, next to another cooler and several large plastic storage bins, all donated by community members.

People come and go all day and night. Some give — they drop off food (though Radvillas doesn’t accept fresh meat, dairy or eggs); toiletries, such as deodorant, diapers, tissues, hand sanitizer, toothpaste and toothbrushes; clothing — men’s clothing is most popular, as men make up the bulk of the homeless population; dog food and pet food; and other household goods. One woman left a computer monitor, DVD player and VCR, which quickly disappeared. Others receive, taking what they need. There are no limits on what people can take. The rules at this little pantry are there are no rules.

“That’s the beauty of this. If you need it, take it,” Radvillas said. “Nobody’s going to police you. There are no cameras. We’re not looking out there. With food banks you have to give your name and possibly your address. We want to exist in a place where there are no requirements besides the fact you’re hungry or you need something.”

Word spread quickly after Radvillas put out the initial set of drawers. She created Instagram and Facebook accounts (@pikespeakpantry, facebook.com/pikespeakpantry), then decided to upgrade. She and her husband revamped a cabinet they bought from ReStore, making sure it could withstand any weather conditions, and hired Colorado Springs artist Lizigns to paint it.

Other organizations have taken notice. Cerberus Brewing Co., located nearby on West Colorado Avenue, offered patrons $1 off their beer for donated items. Chelle Tomasik, coordinator for the Manitou Springs Food Pantry, which is run through St. Andrews Episcopal Church, packs up surplus food once a month for Radvillas to pick up.

“It’s really important,” said Tomasik about Pikes Peak Little Free Pantry. “We need our villages. What she’s doing on her own, it’s phenomenal.”

As a Lasagna Love volunteer, Cathy Whitworth drops off pans of homemade lasagna and other meals at the pantry twice a month. The national nonprofit was started at the beginning of the pandemic. Anybody can go online to lasagnalove.org to sign up for a free, homemade and hand-delivered lasagna.

“It takes a lot to maintain that,” said Whitworth about the pantry. “To keep it clean and looking good. It’s a wonderful thing. Anybody can donate however they want to. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It can just be a few things, but that’s how you get it to people.”

Radvillas and her husband, Cully Radvillas, moved to the Springs from Chicago, in 2012, and now have a 4-year-old son. They both work at home, thanks to the pandemic, which has made running the pantry easier as they can keep tabs on refilling food and water. The new project doesn’t always go smoothly, of course, though the issues are few. There are folks who visit who aren’t in a great state of mind, due to addictions and mental illnesses. And there was the time they came home to find somebody had tried to rip the doors off the pantry. But somebody else had tried to fix the damaged door, and left them a note, along with the broken piece, on their porch.

“That’s the spirit,” Hailey said. “It’s all of us coming together to help each other.”

Part of her intention is to lessen the fear people have of each other, and to encourage people to treat each other with more open-heartedness.

“There will always be people who steal and have addictions, but it’s few and far between,” she said. “People just want to be heard and acknowledged as human beings.”

As for the future, Hailey harbors no desire to turn the pantry into an LLC or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“God no, I don’t want to do that,” she said. “I don’t want there to be any red tape. I don’t want there to be anyone telling me what to do, or telling people coming here what to do. It should just be about people being there for each other.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270



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Fire Under Control Near Fountain Creek Park

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Update 11:12 a.m.

Firefighters put out a wildland fire early Thursday in the Fountain area, officials said.

The blaze was reported about 3:45 a.m. on the east side of Fountain Creek and south of Duckwood Park, Fountain police said in news release. Crews from fire departments in Security, Stratmoor Hills, Fort Carson and Hanover responded to heavy smoke and flames.

The fire was about a mile west of Colorado 85.

“The mild weather conditions this morning made it easier for fire crews to get this fire under control quickly,” police said.

The fire burned less than an acre before it was fully contained, officials said. As of Thursday morning, officials said the area is being monitored and might take several hours before the scene is cleared.

The cause of the fire is under investigation but officials said a lightning strike Wednesday afternoon might have ignited it.

Update 11 a.m.: The fire is 100% contained and burned less than one acre. No structures were threatened and no reported injuries.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, however, officials think it possibly started from a lightning strike due to later afternoon storms on Wednesday.

Fountain fire department battled a wildland fire near Fountain Creek Regional Park Thursday morning, Fountain police said.

The fire ignited around 3:30 a.m. between Hwy 85 and Comanche Village Drive and crews managed to get the fire under control, police said.

Containment was 50% as of 7 a.m. but police did not give any estimates of the fire’s size.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, police said.


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Original Post: gazette.com

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911 Lines Down in Fremont and Custer Counties, Officials Say

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Fremont and Custer counties have been without 911 services since Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

According to the Fremont County Emergency Management, the lines have been down since 5:15 p.m. Wednesday. The public is asked to not call 911 “to test or check your phone.”

Calls will be be routed to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, officials said. From there, they will be transferred back to Fremont County dispatchers.

This is a developing story. Check with gazette.com for updates.


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Original Source: gazette.com

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Alaska Rep. Don Young to Lie in State at US Capitol

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Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. House history, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol on March 29.Read More

Original Article: seattletimes.com

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