Elizabeth Clarke moved to Littlerock in 1999 onto her beloved one-acre plot of land. Large apple, pear and cherry trees decorate her property and grow an abundance of fruit yearly. The Littlerock Sharing Spot – a community food bank – started when Elizabeth noticed that her wheelbarrows were filling with fruit at a rate that she and her kids simply couldn’t keep up with.
Elizabeth’s surplus of fruits and other garden goodies continued to overwhelm her. She took extra goodies to the neighbors, the post office and other locals. Finally, when she realized she still had too much to give away, she set up a picnic table in her front yard to act as a food stand.
“I started filling and filling wheelbarrows with pears,” she said. “I put them out with a sign out front that said, ‘Pears for horses.’”
Around that time, someone started a Littlerock Facebook community group page, where neighbors could write in with news and information. Elizabeth would make a post when she filled her table with farm fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs. One day, someone left a comment asking if they could leave some of their excess items on the picnic table. The answer From Elizabeth was yes, and from there on, the Sharing Spot became a community effort.
Community Food Bank Project Grows in Littlerock
The next big moment for the Sharing Spot was when a local couple named Don and Tom Gibbs started bringing yesterday’s bread and baked goods from stores like Safeway and various food rescue organizations. Then, Elizabeth said, the community really got hooked.
As the Sharing Spot grew in popularity, it was clear that it needed a facelift. So, the people of Littlerock raised money to build a 6-by-8-foot shed. Somebody even donated a refrigerator.
The Sharing Spot is no small undertaking, though. Elizabeth, who is disabled, says none of it would be possible without their volunteers.
Manda Heimbigner, in particular, is one of those volunteers who have kept the food drive alive. “Elizabeth was looking for somebody to take on a little bit more of the coordinating and finding volunteers to help out,” she explains. “You know, sourcing, newer, fresh donations. So, I tried to start coordinating and finding more volunteers. I just wanted to help.”
Currently, the Littlerock Sharing Spot volunteer Facebook page has over 170 members, but only a handful or two of those come to donate their time.
“Amanda has been roped in, and she’s stepped up because my health is not allowing me to do what I would like to,” Elizabeth explains. “She’s literally saved the sharing spot. I’m so very, very grateful for it all.”
When talking with Elizabeth and Manda, it’s clear that the Sharing Spot is truly a labor of love. However, it’s also quite time-consuming. For example, when people leave items that should probably have gone in the trash, Manada, Elizabeth, and other volunteers have to take trips to the dump. In addition, the Sharing Spot must be opened and closed daily, which volunteers coordinate to do around their busy schedules.
The Sharing Spot’s motto is, ‘Take what you need, leave what you can,’ so there’s no limit on what the neighborhood can take home, and there’s no requirement to leave something in return.
This philosophy is fundamental to the community in Littlerock, which consists of many older people without the necessary services. Although there are more extensive food banks in Littlerock, you must sign up before using it, and it’s only open during business hours. Elizabeth saw the need to get food on her neighbors’ tables, and that’s precisely what she did.
“Post being disabled,” Elizabeth said, “I experienced hunger, and I didn’t like it. That’s been a huge factor in my inspiration to expand, to dedicate a chunk of my yard and energy to the Sharing Spot.”
Start Your Own Sharing Spot in Your Community
Elizabeth and Manda hope their work will encourage and inspire neighboring communities to start their own version of the Sharing Spot. When asked for tips and tricks for newbies, they listed a few crucial points.
Firstly, no homemade food. Elizabeth explained that it’s best to stick to fresh produce, canned items, etc. Keep the items as simple as possible.
Secondly, consider the location. The Sharing Spot is situated on highway 121, which looked much different a decade ago. Now the road is bustling, which can sometimes lead to traffic issues. Elizabeth and Manda expressed the need for a new location due to its growing popularity.
Thirdly, it’s imperative to start with a solid crew. “Go in with a handful of dedicated people who can spread the responsibilities out,” explains Manda.
Manda and Elizabeth also expressed the need for some security. Unfortunately, cleaning supplies and other items have been known to go missing. However, taking the time to consider opening and closing times and organizing volunteers with watchful eyes can make a difference.
When she’s not working full-time or lending a hand at the Sharing Spot, Manda enjoys hanging out with her husband and two rambunctious dogs. In addition, she works on projects around the house, takes care of her home garden, and gets out to do hiking and camping when she can.
Elizabeth’s efforts in her community do not go unnoticed. Before starting the Sharing Spot, she taught preschool as well as gave tours where she spoke about local history, urban farming and other local interests.
“I am a seed planter, not a farmer,” Elizabeth shares. “I just want to plant a seed and make a difference.”
As mentioned, the Littlerock Sharing Spot is looking for a new location. If you have ideas, are interested in becoming a volunteer, or want to hear more about their efforts, they encourage you to join their private Facebook group.