Couple hosts a Facebook-tied pantry on Judson Street near downtown
LYNDEN — Nestled on a sidewalk in the 800 block of Judson Street near downtown, a bookcase stands tall, full of food. It has been there since August, but now has new timely meaning.
A local Facebook group for moms was given the shelf to start a community pantry. The group’s moderator had searched around the community for someone to manage the pantry. After asking churches and others and not having any luck, Brenna Clancy-Sebens and her husband Ben Sebens decided they could take on the task of hosting the food pantry.
The pair have two boys, ages 7 and 3. Sebens is a nurse and Clancy-Sebens is a business and marketing consultant and teaches Taekwondo.
Clancy-Sebens describes her role with the food pantry as more of the middle-man, since it is so community driven.
“All we are is coordinators between the community and the people that need it,” she said. Even though this may have started from a Lynden moms’ Facebook page, it has turned into a full community pantry, receiving donations from many groups.
The couple started contacting local community groups and churches once they noticed the need for a community pantry rising.
In November they saw a huge influx of products being donated. They were able to get a back stock of products going, and they use a chest freezer to put donated goods.
In January, with the floods and snow, there was a need to replenish lost food and to help the elderly who had a hard time going to grocery stores with icy parking lots.
“The donations during that time were just huge,” Clancy-Sebens said. “It’s pretty incredible how the community is just amazing.”
She sees Judson Street as centrally located in Lynden and easy to access, so her home seems like a good location for a community food pantry.
The pantry also allows those who work during the Lynden food bank’s open hours the flexibility to come grab what they need anytime. “This really allows a curbside service,” Clancy-Sebens said.
When coronavirus started to appear in the Washington state in February, Sebens heard that things might get a little scary and that people would probably start prepping pretty hard — which ended up happening.
“The stores were just cleared out,” Clancy-Sebens said. “Especially [Women Infant Child] items, especially formula and diapers. People couldn’t find things.”
When stores started getting cleared out of essentials, she said, people came to this pantry in tears and panicked that they weren’t able to get what they needed. The food pantry has been able to help provide for those in need.
“At the same time, the level of donations stepped up,” Clancy-Sebens said.
They have been able to keep their chest freezer stocked up during the mass buying that has been happening at grocery stores now in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a really fun way to see the community interact,” she said.
She had a mom call upset because she couldn’t find a very specific type of formula that her child needs. Sebens suggested looking at the new donations on their porch before sending out a message to see if anyone had any, and sure enough, that specific formula had been donated.
“I have all these moments, where you realize you’re all just sitting around God’s table and sometimes you just need to pass what you don’t need to someone who needs it, and they’re going to pass what they have to you. It’s just really cool — if you can imagine, a big Thanksgiving table,” Clancy-Sebens said.
She hopes stores will be back to some normalcy soon, but now with people having to take time off work there may be some discrepancy in household income. She’s anticipating people in the community needing different things.
When someone reaches out to Clancy-Sebens about a specific need, she will make a post on Facebook to see if anyone can fulfill that request.
They also started a Facebook page for the community pantry so people can get in touch with needs or donations. It is: https://www.facebook.com/Lynden-Community-Food-Pantry-107829944187319/.