If you search for Michelle Dahl on Facebook, you’ll discover a woman with a passion for serving her community.
The single mother of five has called Franklin her home for more than 40 years. After she learned about the food insecurities of several families in Johnson County, Dahl knew she had to step up.
Just outside Dahl’s Franklin home, you can find Michelle’s Little Free Pantry. Located a 20-minute walk or 5-minute drive from campus, the large wooden cabinet is stocked from top to bottom with boxes of pasta, cans of vegetables and tubes of toothpaste.
“I say, ‘Take a blessing or leave a blessing if you can,’” Dahl said about her pantry’s motto. “I really want to help remove the stigma of needing help because if you’re not helping people, there’s really no reason to be here.”
While scrolling through her Facebook news feed in 2015, Dahl came across a post advertising a “mini-food pantry” in a nearby state.
She instantly knew she could do something similar.
Dahl reached out to her own friends, and the responses were overwhelming.
“A friend of mine named Joe McCauley said, ‘I would love to help you,’” she said. “He actually found the cabinet and he salvaged it for me and made it what it is today.”
But for Dahl, this is nothing new.
In years past, Dahl and her family baked goods for local shelters, assembled care packages for homeless people and cooked freezer meals for those in need.
“Food is a center theme here,” Dahl said. “It’s important. If our families are full, then we’re more likely to be able to do all the other things we need to do.”
Through a Facebook page, Dahl shares her experiences since making the pantry available to the public. While she said no one has used the pantry as a resource, Dahl is still receiving blessings.
“Totally awesome when you are in the Kroger parking lot in your car about to leave and someone knocks on your window to give you food for the pantry,” Dahl said in her latest Facebook post.
And that’s not all.
Earlier this week, Dahl received a check in the mail from a neighbor as a donation to the pantry.
“My mailbox had a surprise,” Dahl posted. “I do not encourage monetary donations, but I will use the funds to paint a bright welcoming path up to the pantry and get the curbside version up a lot more quickly if I have the supplies!!!”
Dahl said it comes as no surprise when people ask what would happen if someone takes advantage of the pantry or steals it. But she said in that case, she would immediately set another one out.
Dahl dreams of seeing more mini-pantries pop up around the city, as well as the state. Her next goal is to create a curbside pantry for people to easily access without walking up the driveway.
In Dahl’s most recent post to her Facebook page, she shared a quote with her followers: “Just because you need help doesn’t mean you are needy. No one can live their life without needing help sometimes. Let go of those who make you feel guilty for needing help.”
Interested in “leaving a blessing” at Michelle’s Little Free Pantry? The pantry, located at 102 Weber Court, is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/takeblessingleaveblessing.