Yvonee Roberson and Laurie Moziejko know of neighbors in their Canal Winchester subdivision who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

They also know of those who don't feel comfortable going into a crowded grocery store.

That's why the two residents of the Lehman Meadows development just off Gender Road have converted the neighborhood's Li'l Free Library into a food pantry.

"I had seen something on Facebook where someone had turned their little library into a food bank because of coronavirus, and I thought, 'That's a really good idea,' " said Moziejko, who is a Columbus City Schools librarian. "Yvonee saw it, too, and she's not one to let grass grow under her feet. She gets an idea in her head and, boom, she's off."

So the pair began spreading information on social media after replacing the books with food and hygiene products.

"We put it on our Facebook page, and neighbors overwhelmingly said, 'Yes,' and it's being utilized," said Roberson, who is a reading teacher.

Residents have been stocking the makeshift pantry with nonperishables -- canned goods, boxed meals, soap and even toilet paper. The idea is to take, swap with or donate.

Across the nation, Little Free Libraries have been converted into free food pantries to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic that has left thousands of Americans jobless.

The Lehman Meadows Li'l Free Library isn't affiliated with the national Little Free Library organization, but it follows the same concept.

Last year, homeowners association members discussed making a free library for children in the neighborhood. Roberson enlisted her husband, Darrell, to construct the box in the couple's garage, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in August.

According to the Little Free Library national organization website, some supporters have decided to close their libraries temporarily.

Canal Winchester has three Little Free Library sites listed at littlefreelibrary.org: 42 W. Columbus St; next to the flagpole in Guiler Park; and in front of Olive Branch Pizzeria, 5600 Gender Road.

Other locations not listed on the website are at Indian Trail and Winchester Trail elementary schools on Gender Road; 100 E. Hocking St.; and 325 Woodsview Drive. Book-sharing remains at all sites.

"Given the dynamic nature of what is going on, we defer to the judgment of the individual to make the decision that is best for them and their community," the Little Free Library website states.

The national organization, which has more than 100,000 Little Free Library sites, encourages those who decide to keep a library open to properly disinfect it.

Although Roberson and Moziejko plan to reintroduce books to their small library at some point, they remain focused on helping their neighbors, they said.

"Most of our community is home, so they're either working from home or they've been furloughed," Moziejko said.

"We're like a middle middle-class neighborhood, so anything can tip you one way or another."

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