Masonic self-serve food pantry does brisk service in first months

An anonymous 24/7 public food pantry built and run by the Masons of William Renton Lodge No. 29, just off High School Road, has so far proven a popular, necessary addition to public service options on Bainbridge Island, filling a need many might be surprised to know is as prevalent as it is.

Inspired by similar projects at other lodges, local Masons raised the funds to establish their own pantry, a kind of miniature prefabricated home at the High School Road lodge, earlier this year, said lodge spokesman Jonathon Addington.

It is stocked with goods donated by Masons and the public, anonymously.

And it can be used by anyone at any time — also anonymously.

The pantry, a joint project with Helpline House, is always open.

“We liked the idea,” Addington said. “Not everybody who has needs is able to make it out to Helpline House, so they thought this would be a really great addition to [their] services.”

The pantry officially opened at the start of the summer, and lodge volunteers who sort donations have seen a brisk turnover of items.

“We’ve seen a lot of turnover in products, so it is being used,” he said. “We keep a good eye on it and make sure that if it gets low we ourselves will often bring in additional cans and goods.”

The informal, anonymous nature of the project seems to be the key to its appeal.

“It’s much like the idea of the little libraries that you see around,” Addington said. “It’s just out in front. It’s not locked down. It is designed for food-grade storage and it does have a secured door so we don’t have problems with animals and such — as we certainly would on the island.

“To have something that’s just available that you can either take from, or if you have a little excess that month you can donate to, it has a lot of appeal.”

And, apparently, much demand.

“There’s a lot of need, certainly on the island, that people aren’t aware of,” Addington said. “I’ve been on Baibnridge since ’81, and I’ve certainly known that there’s need. You see it in the community. Even for a place as affluent as Bainbridge, we’re still a very diverse community in lots of ways, and economically is one of them.

“I think some people may be surprised, but I think [this might] at least bring attention to the idea that we’ve got a whole host of different kinds of people on the island.”

Founded in Port Blakely on in 1879 by nine Masons, William Renton Lodge was named for founding member, originally of Union Lodge 23 in Newry, Ireland.

After a fire destroyed its building at Port Blakely in 1955, the lodge was built at the current location (1299 Grow Ave. NW) and dedicated on Oct. 19, 1957 by Walter T. Higgins.

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