Free “Community Refrigerator” Open to All at the Ada Jenkins Center
Thanks to the hard work of a local Eagle Scout, people facing food insecurity in our area can now access fresh produce for free – anytime – at the Community Refrigerator at the Ada Jenkins Center.
Drew Pappas of Cornelius, a recent graduate of Hough High School, came up with the idea for his Eagle Scout project after researching similar “neighbors helping neighbors” projects in other U.S. states. He worked alongside Heidi Acker, Ada Jenkins Center’s food pantry coordinator, to bring the project to life.
“I’ve volunteered in food pantries for years,” Pappas says, explaining that his grandfather helped run a food pantry operated by the Catholic Diocese in Charlotte. “I wanted to do something food-oriented for this project, something that provides families with food variety.”
The Community Refrigerator at the Ada Jenkins Center is based on the popular idea of the Little Free Book Libraries — where people can grab a book anytime they like. Built like a large closet, the mobile Community Refrigerator is stocked with fresh produce, next to shelves of canned, packaged, and bakery goods. It has a child safety lock, but otherwise is open to everyone 24 hours a day, year-round. No referrals needed, no questions asked.
“The Community Refrigerator is something that’s been on my radar for a while; we just haven’t had the bandwidth and resources to create it,” Acker adds. “So when Drew approached me about building this, we were thrilled. And it’s turned out really nice.”
Pappas laughs that he had “zero carpentry skills” before attempting this project, and is grateful for the help of local retired contractor Paul Newton, who provided guidance and training. They constructed the refrigerator shelter, covered it in three layers of roofing tar paper, installed pavers as a flooring surface, and ran a construction-grade extension cord from the Ada Jenkins Center food pantry to the refrigerator itself, which was donated by Pappas’ scoutmaster.
Acker explains that, for now, the Community Refrigerator stores only produce — no meat, dairy or prepared foods. Three times each week, Ada Jenkins Center volunteers stock the fridge with excess fruits and vegetables that are donated to the pantry. At
this time, community donations are not needed; Acker wants to first determine the need and usage of the Community Refrigerator, ensuring that everything meets food safety guidelines.
Pappas revisited the Community Refrigerator last week, and says he was impressed by how well the refrigerator and adjacent shelves were stocked. “I’m hopeful it will get used quite often.’
The Ada Jenkins Center has stood in Davidson for more than 80 years as a hub for education and community services in northern Mecklenburg County. With services including social work case management; housing, employment and financial resources; youth and adult education; and food pantry, we help people in our community create lasting solutions for economic stability. Learn more: www.adajenkins.org