People driving along West DuBois Avenue may notice two cabinets in the front yard of a home. The cabinets each have a special purpose.
Two years ago, DuBois resident Lisa Summerson wanted to share her passion for reading with people who may need a little comfort or guidance.
A friend from Ridgway built a mounted cabinet in front of her house, and from there grew the “Walking Library” — a place from which anyone may take a book and leave a book, or just take one if they need it.
“With a book, you can go anywhere,” she said.
About once a month, Summerson will check the little library, rearranging or adding new books, such as a Bible.
Soon after, her daughter, Savannah Wehler, saw a post on Facebook and was inspired to start a food and essentials pantry. So, another front-yard cabinet was built, and is now called the “Little Free Pantry.” At the bottom of the wooden framework is the quote “Take what you need, leave what you can.”
After hearing of Wehler’s idea, local woman Sharon McGregor offered to help fund many of the pantry’s essentials, she said. It offers everything from nonperishable food items to soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste to socks and gloves.
Coworkers of Wehler’s at the Gateway Cafe have also donated items, as have members of Tri-County Church of DuBois, where Summerson worships.
The mother-daughter duo has always been close, they said, but giving back together has been a rewarding experience.
She has a spot in her heart for the less fortunate, and also for women who may be victims of abuse, Summerson says. Domestic violence and emergency shelters are often in need of these items as well.
“We wanted to do it so that people could get things anonymously,” Summerson says.
Living in the middle of town gives Summerson the accessibility to help people, she says. The pantry is refilled about every three days.
The community has been wonderful in contributing, too, Summerson said, dropping items off on her porch. She can remember a time when the DuBois community rallied behind her through her battle with ovarian cancer.
Summerson likes to think that maybe some of the people who donate items have been touched by hardship or poverty themselves and now want to pay it forward.
When asked what the library and pantry provide, Summerson says “One is soul food, and one is real food.”
Summerson attends Tri-County Church of DuBois and currently works as a caregiver in Punxsutawney. Throughout her life, she has always found ways to give back and showed her children to do the same.
“I’ve always been a single mom, so my kids always went with me when I delivered food for the food pantry, or drove to pick up a kitten for someone who had just lost one,” she said.
Someone who needs a book or an essential item may be hesitant to ask for it, which is why the library and pantry are discreet — people can come and take as they please.
Summerson refers to being able to provide these items to people as “a blessing.”
“I love when someone asks me for help, and it’s something I can do,” she said.
They hope their next endeavor will be providing clothing to people in need, Wehler and Summerson said.
People willing to contribute can donate items like nonperishable foods, socks, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste or feminine products.