VISTA — A Vista couple is hoping to “nourish the souls and bodies” of neighbors with the help of a free food, toy and book pantry in their driveway.
Mark and Jannah Loigman said the idea for their pantry began when the county implemented the stay-at-home order, forcing the closure of non-essential businesses such as the local libraries.
“This began with Mark being an avid reader and having many books to share,” Jannah said. “Once the library system shut down, and remembering the little lending libraries we have seen in neighborhoods, this seemed like a great match.”
The couple asked neighbors for a donation of cupboards, which were then repurposed to build the pantry. From there, the Loigmans’ idea grew to include a food bank and a variety of toys to keep children busy as they stay home from schools and playgrounds.
“The book library developed into a larger food bank as the needs of the community and our neighbors became apparent,” said Jannah, who has lived in Vista since 2016. “This has further evolved with the donations from our community to include lots of kids and adult books, movies, games and toys as well as many other items for people in need.”
So far, dozens of families have stopped by the home at the corner of Collyn Street and Stewart Drive to take advantage of the couple’s generous offering. Donations are also accepted to keep the pantry filled with necessary items.
Jannah said an 85-year-old man stopped by the pantry and was excited to receive a can of his favorite “LeSuer Peas.” The man, alongside his daughter, now visit the pantry every week.
“Another woman and her children made the trip to the pantry and the kids were very excited to find books, toys and games to occupy themselves and feed their spirits,” Jannah said. “We overheard a child say to his mother ‘Oh mommy, this is like the outings we used to have before the sickness.’”
The couple has also been moved by stories from their own circle of friends and relatives.
“We have been aware of and touched by our family, neighbors and friends suffering, job loss, financial challenges and overall anxiety,” Jannah said. “Personally, we are in the higher risk category and have experienced the fear of grocery shopping and being in public spaces.”
Giving back has also helped the couple who has been married for three decades, Mark said.
“I see our children without employment and our uncertain futures and want to reach out in the way we can to make a difference,” Mark said. “It is hard to know what the truth is and who to believe, so to focus on helping others and giving back keeps us busy and distracted from our own fears, concerns and worries during these challenging and difficult times. We have created a safe and calm environment for folks to give and receive gifts.”
Although Mark said the idea began with his love for books, it’s his wife who has maintained and organized the pantry for the community. He said she has been able to sort through donations, organize the items and fulfill any requests from neighbors.
Jannah said they’ll continue to host the pantry for as long as it is needed.
“We intend to nourish both the soul and the bodies of those neighbors in need,” Jannah said. “A further benefit is to foster a spirit of community for those that can donate as well as those that receive. This is a small offering that has a daily impact on lives and hearts.”
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.