In the fight against hunger and poverty, every little bit helps.

That was one of the notions that led Vanessa Niekamp after she took over as the pantry's executive director in November 2017 to jettison a Pickerington Food Pantry policy that allowed only teenagers 15 years old and older to volunteer.

"I changed that within my first seven months on the job," Niekamp said. "We now allow those in grade 8 and up to volunteer on their own, and all younger volunteers to participate with the supervision of a parent, guardian, teacher, coach, etc."

One of the pantry's most recent supporters is 5-year-old Paige Evans of Pickerington.

Paige always has been attentive to discussions about how fortunate she is to have a family that's able to provide for her, according to her grandmother, Renee "NayNay" Barger.

And a trip this summer with Barger to Columbus' Short North to watch volunteers from the nonprofit Make-A-Day organization distribute goods to homeless people, some with small children, made a big impression.

"She went there one day to see all the homeless people and Paige and her grandmother started talking about how there are a lot of little kids, too, who need food," said Kristin Evans, Paige's mother."

That inspired Paige to set up a lemonade stand outside her house in the Glenshire neighborhood May 18 that also featured bottles of water, granola bars and doughnuts to raise money to support the Pickerington Food Pantry.

That effort raised enough money, roughly $25, to buy 40 jars of baby food, which Paige promptly donated to the pantry.

"She hopes to keep having lemonade stands in the future, to keep purchasing more baby food," Kristin Evans said. "She has the biggest heart."

Slightly older than a toddler, Paige was a girl of few words when interviewed.

She confirmed she hopes to continue to set up her stand and raise money for the food pantry when weather permits and in conjunction with garage sales on her street that might bring more customers her way.

When asked why she puts out the effort, Paige replied, "So the poor kids can have food, especially babies."

Niekamp called Paige's efforts "a wonderful way for our young children to be involved in their community and give back to those less fortunate than themselves."

She said Paige's work is among that of other young people in the community that are helping their neighbors in need.

The charity often is championed throughout all grade levels during class projects by Pickerington Schools students, but Niekamp said others, such as Paige, are taking on projects themselves.

"I do have young philanthropists visit the pantry on a regular basis to donate their piggy banks full of change and even their allowances," Niekamp said.

"We have found the younger volunteers to be extremely helpful and we appreciate their excitement in giving to others."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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