South Jersey man turns garage into free food pantry for anyone in need

WESTVILLE, N.J. -- "I don't think anyone should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from," said Barney Corrigan.

Working as a caterer in the foodservice industry, he lost his scheduled jobs when the COVID-19 pandemic hit close to home.

"It's a necessity, man, people have to eat, y'know," he said.

It didn't take long for Corrigan, 42, to decide to make a difference.

He propped up a small wooden shelf on his front lawn and led the initiative to fill it with free food. And soon, kindness spread through the neighborhood like wildfire.

"It was way too many donations to fill that thing," he said. That's when he moved the operation to his garage, which even now is bursting at the seams with essentials.

"Grab a bag and shop. That's it," he said. "It's a little store for you guys and you don't have to pay."

He now opens the doors to his cost-free grocery store every other Saturday from 8am to 1pm. He invites anyone in need, along with anyone who can make donations, to visit during that time at 617 Summit Avenue, Westville, New Jersey.

In the last few weeks, Corrigan realized that food insecurity permeated through more populations than he thought.

"It's much more widespread than just people that don't have jobs," he said. He recalled various stories from families who were torn between paying their bills and feeding their kids.

"Just knowing that people are out there making those decisions, it's just not right. They shouldn't have to," he said.

Lisa Davis, a mother with three children at home, visited the pantry today to connect the remaining dots of her weekly circumstances.

"It helps us to get by because we live check to check," said Davis, who had only previously visited to donate goods. "It means a lot to people like us," she said, this time as a recipient.

"You get to the point where you need help, it's hard to ask a lot of times," said Jim Gavi, who has also visited both as a donor and recipient.

Patti Zelvis came to the pantry on behalf of her apartment complex. "Most of them need some help. I put a little bag on everybody's door and split it all up," she said. "That's spreading the love!"

Barney Corrigan is surely a huge fan of that love, considering his pantry has become a de facto social spot. Although he upkeeps a busy house with four children, the biweekly socialization has proven to be a respite from a world of social distancing.

"Everyone that comes here, they're like friends now," he said. "I had two people today that told me it might be the last time I see them, and that's awesome in a good way," he said, hoping for the day when food insecurity is eradicated.

Knowing that dream is quite a longshot, Corrigan hopes to continue being the change his neighbors need. He is currently in the process of forming a non-profit and hopes to move his pantry to a warehouse that can serve more people.

But for now, his garage seems to be the perfect place to fill the community both physically and spiritually.

To learn more or donate, visit his website.

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