Welcoming Neighbors with Dignity at Local Good Pantry

A hole in the fence becomes an intentional gateway for neighbors to access food thanks to a partnership between DART, the city of Richardson and Local Good Pantry.

Local Good Pantry, DART and the city of Richardson worked together to add a gate so neighbors could more easily access the pantry.

When Chase Oaks Church and the Local Good Collective began operating their pantry in Richardson in November, their main objective was to ensure no one experienced a disruption in access to food.

The location had housed a pantry before, and they knew neighbors in the area had come to rely on its presence. So, when Local Good Pantry director Tracy Parlin noticed that some of their neighbors were walking up to the pantry via a hole in the fence that separated a DART parking lot from their facility, she and her team agreed it was something they would take care of as soon as possible.

“Part of our mission statement is providing good food and essentials with dignity, and I thought, ‘well, that’s pretty undignified,’ but we weren’t able to address it right away,” she says.

Without realizing it had been used as a walkway, the city asked DART to fix the hole in the fence or face a fine. DART quickly remedied the situation by patching up the hole.

Tracy and dedicated volunteer Heather Rainwater noticed immediately that neighbors were having to either walk down the block to get around the fence — which was difficult for those with health or mobility issues — or resort to climbing over the fence.

Heather didn’t want them to face that extra barrier. She’d connected with local officials during the pantry’s grand opening earlier in the year and reached out to the city to ask if a different solution could be reached. The city and DART responded right away, with DART sending an employee to observe the issue caused by the fence.

Just a few days after that, the hole was back. This time, however, it was an intentional opening, complete with a gate and gravel so neighbors wouldn’t have to walk or push their wheelchairs through dirt and mud.

“It happened way faster than I ever dreamt possible,” Tracy says. “Really, it was the city and DART and the pantry that all came together to solve a problem.”

Since assuming operations for the pantry in November, Tracy says they’ve served between 250 to 450 people each day they’re open. The pantry is a partner of the North Texas Food Bank.

It is often those without housing who visit the pantry after walking through the opening in the fence and Tracy says when they learned the new fence entryway was constructed just for them, they were delighted. “They felt seen,” she says.

Now open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Local Good Pantry anticipates the number of people it serves will only increase in the years to come as DART’s silver line will run right behind the pantry after it’s expanded.

“It was just a blessing to see everyone come together to make this work,” she says.

Neighbors previously used this hole in the fence to walk from the DART lot to Local Good Pantry.

Kathleen Petty is communications manager for the North Texas Food Bank.