BREMERTON – Darla Bradish’s idea of placing little pantries filled with non-perishable food in east Bremerton neighborhoods got a boost from prison inmates in Mason County, who are turning out well-crafted pantries. Now she is looking for new places to post them.
She has two in mobile home parks that she manages, Steele Creek and Kariotis, and has her eye on two more sites in west Bremerton and Silverdale. But she has seven of the pantries on hand and three more being built.
They could be placed at churches, daycares, “your tattoo shop, I don’t care,” Bradish said, and she isn’t trying to keep them in Kitsap County.
“I would put them anywhere,” she said.
She started the push to post the pantries near the end of last year, an idea that came from the little libraries neighbors have posted in their neighborhoods to share books. Her work as a property manager also showed her the need: She has seen the squeeze working people feel trying to make ends meet.
“I’ve seen people come in and pay rent, and literally only have $10 to make it a week, two weeks until the next payday,” she said.
What also motivated her was the idea of offering something to people that came without any qualification requirements or strings attached.
“This one pulled at my heart because people didn’t have to ask for it,” she said, noting that some people in need aren’t comfortable seeking out services offered by governments and nonprofits. “They don’t have to be embarrassed to feed themselves.”
After word spread of the efforts of Bradish and her husband, John, the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton got involved. The inmates repurposed materials recycled from an Olympic College construction education program to make the little pantries.
Bradish still marvels at the quality of the new pantries, which she said are an upgrade from the original pantries.
“I didn’t expect them to put so much care in them,” Bradish said. “They put a lot of love in this project.”
Among the inmates who built the little pantries is Robert Ostaszewski, serving a 16-year sentence for stalking and shooting a homeless man in the east Bremerton Fred Mayer parking lot in 2013.
“I’m glad I can continue to serve my community even though I am incarcerated,” Ostaszewski said in a statement provided by Don Carlstad, a plant manager at the prison who oversees the inmate workers.
Tending to the pantries has been a joy for Bradish, who said she has been moved by watching a can of chili brighten somebody’s day, or teenagers stop by after school to pick up a box of macaroni and cheese.
“Food shows up, food disappears, and almost on a daily basis I will come and look and everything is different,” she said.
The pantries must be located on private property and have a person to look after them. They can only be stocked with non-perishable items in sealed packaging, and any pet food or hygiene products have to be kept separate. A Kitsap Public Health District inspector checks on them, Bradish said.