Little Free Library, Pantry started in Otho

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Larry and Lynn McBride, parents of Otho Betterment Committee President Missy Ewing, right, built and donated the Little Free Pantry and Little Free Library that now sits near the Otho City Hall.

OTHO — Otho’s town motto is “Friends and neighbors working together.” For the last several years, the Otho Betterment Committee has looked for different ways to exemplify that in the small Webster County town.

Recently, with the help of some neighbors, the committee set up a Little Free Library and Little Free Pantry near Otho City Hall.

“I had seen some other ones online, the libraries especially,” Betterment Committee President Missy Ewing said. “There’s a couple in Fort Dodge and we’ve seen one at Twin Lakes, so I just thought it would be a fun idea to have one here.”

The Little Free Library movement started in Wisconsin in 2009. According to the official website, a Little Free Library is a “‘take a book, return a book’ gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories.” Anyone can stop by and pick up a book, or leave a book.

Ewing decided to enlist the help of her parents, Larry and Lynn McBride, of Coalville, to build the pantry boxes. The McBrides not only built the boxes, but donated them as well.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
The Otho Betterment Committee recently set up a Little Free Library and Little Free Pantry in front of the Otho City Hall. Those in need are invited to use the pantry, and those who can donate are invited to fill the pantry.

To kick off the initiative, Ewing filled the pantry with a variety of nonperishable food items. The library was stocked with children’s books and DVD movies donated in memory of George and Candy Bartlett.

The library and pantry have been up for about two weeks now, Ewing said.

“Every day I come by here, they’re stocked and there’s new stuff that’s been added,” she said. “We’ve had a really good response. On the second day, I came in to look and there was already additional food other than what I had put in.”

Some Otho neighbors may also leave fresh produce from their gardens in the pantry, Ewing added.

Residents who need a little hand-up are encouraged to take what they need from the pantry, while those who may have extra are encouraged to donate to help their neighbors.

“I think it helps, especially for people who can’t get into town,” Ewing said.

The Little Free Pantry is also completely anonymous.

“Somebody could come here if they need something, and nobody would care or nobody would say anything,” Larry McBride said. He added that though the pantry is located in Otho, nearby neighbors are also welcome to use it.

Eventually, the Betterment Committee will stock personal hygiene items, toilet paper and feminine products in the pantry, Ewing said.

“We can benefit from this for years,” she said. “It makes me feel good that it is being used.”

Ewing said she hopes that the Little Free Pantry and Little Free Library in Otho will inspire other area small towns to do something similar.

“We have a lot of retirement homes,” she said. “A lot of people are on a limited income and most of them don’t have vehicles.”


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