By Chris Lewis/August 19, 2021
Conception Bay South’s newest mini pantry is located on one of the town’s busiest streets.
Varrick Kirby installed “Flo’s Pantry,” over a week ago outside his home on Fowlers Road. He is hoping people will feel free to take what they need from the box, or leave non-perishables behind for others. The charitable gesture is being made in memory of his mom, who died of cancer some 21 years ago.
After returning to the province about five years ago to settle down after a long career of working away, Kirby said he wanted to do something that would keep his mother’s memory alive.
Originally from Lewisporte, Kirby remembered his mother as the type who would give to others even when she had little to nothing herself. With eight children in her brood, Kirby said his mom’s resources were sometimes stretched thin.
“When we got groceries, it didn’t matter how much we had or how much we didn’t have, she always gave some items to others in the community who needed it, whether it was one thing or a bag full,” he said.
That sense of caring and giving is something Flo instilled in all her children, said Kirby. After seeing little pantries popping up throughout the province, Kirby immediately thought of his mother.
“I saw it as a perfect representation of who my mother was,” he said. “She’s got a big heart, always lived by emotion, and always helped people in need. I thought (the pantries) were a great idea.”
Kirby said he is at a point in his life when he could finally take the time to work on such a project.
His first goal was to make sure it was all made from home. This was something else that stemmed from his mother, he said, who was never a fan of mass produced, store-bought items. She preferred things that were the fruits of people’s blood, sweat and tears.
Kirby said he received several small donations to help him get started, including shingles for the pantry’s roof and a small piece of glass for the door.
“I took my little handsaw I have, and every day I’d spend some time putting it all together. I even refused to use electric tools because that’s how my mother would have wanted it: completely handmade,” Kirby said with a laugh. “I sweated through the heat every day to get this done. I even managed to lose some weight.”
Once completed, Kirby knew there was one last thing it needed: a name. After painting “Flo’s Pantry” on the small structure, and renditions of tulips – his mother’s favourite flower – Kirby knew his work had been done.
For a couple days after being set up, Kirby said the pantry did not see much action. But after posting about it on social media and garnering some attention from local supermarkets, that has changed entirely. Kirby said the pantry has seen plenty of activity in the week since it was set up both from people taking and leaving food.
“I am absolutely my mother’s son. I’m a softhearted guy,” Kirby said. “My mother taught me to always give to those who needed it. She raised me to genuinely care about people. When I look at (the pantry) I see something my mother would have been proud of. There is a reward in it for me whenever I see someone stop to leave something behind or take something out of it.”
Kirby said he hopes to inspire others to do good as his mother inspired him.
“Maybe it will influence others to do something similar. That way, we as a community can help a lot more people,” he said.