FLORENCE — The people who run the Little Free Food Pantry in Florence say they see an increase in the need for food and warm clothes this time of year.
The 2017 Roaring Lion fire devastated the southern Bitterroot Valley, so the Florence Civic Club started a community emergency fund for people that needed a little extra help.
Club President Kim Maclay says sifting through applications showed her how many people in town were struggling to put food on the table.
"We really realized how much of a need there is in this community. You don't know it until people come to ask you for help, and people don't like to ask for help. "
Because of this, the Florence Civic Club opened up a free food pantry last year. It's a standalone outdoor cabinet, and is open 24/7 for people to pick up and drop off food and other necessities, like toothbrushes, diapers and winter clothes.
Maclay says the biggest struggle they've had is just getting the word out, and letting people know that the service is available. The pantry is located just a couple blocks up from Highway 93, in the parking lot at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.
Maclay recalls when her family fell on hard times during the 2008 recession. She was a stay at home mom, with a newborn, when the market crashed.
"Our whole world just crumbled. Our baby had medical issues, we had to go to Spokane every week and have Shriner's take care of him. So, if there was something like that that would help us get through those times, that would have been amazing for us. "
She says food is constantly rotating in and out of the pantry, but they are always asking for donations and encouraging people to take advantage of the service.
"Were just trying to help, we make a huge difference with our community. Our community emergency fund has made – I can’t even tell you how many thousands of dollars and helped families in the area. So that’s what we’re here for -- we’re here to help."
You can connect with the pantry on their Facebook page or find it at St. Joseph Church which is located on Linder Avenue in Florence.