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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Little Free Pantry

By Jennifer Ersalesi

During this time of uncertainty when it is difficult to make sure families have what they need, such as food, water, paper goods, etc., Matthew and Leyla Kuznia have found an amazing way to provide for their neighbors. This is Rutherford had the opportunity to ask Matthew Kunzia a few questions about this good deed and why he and his wife Leyla believe it is important to take care of our neighbors.

TIR: How did you and your wife Leyla come up with this idea?

Matt Kunzia: Leyla made a trip to Costco and managed to get one big package of toilet paper. We set some aside in the bathrooms and had a dozen or so left, so we put them aside. Leyla remembered reading somewhere that someone else had switched their Little Free Library to a Little Free Pantry, and suggested we should do that to ours and offer out whatever we could. So we did some math and tried to figure out what we were likely to use before we were able to get more. Not sure if we got the math exactly right, but either way we knew we had more than we’d need until a resupply. We’re fortunate in that we have enough to get by and we live in a pretty good location where it is easy for people to stop and see us.

TIR: How have people been using and contributing to the necessities that you have stocked in the Little Free Pantry?

MK: It’s hard to keep track of what comes and goes, but supply does seem to be moving. We started with about 15 rolls of toilet paper, and by the end of the first day we had about half that, but people added things like cookbooks, canned food, water bottles, Clorox spray and other cleaning supplies, baking items, seasonings, paper towels, and more. I know of a handful of instances where people needed something and got it, which has made it worthwhile. It’s been really incredible to see how people have pitched in and donated.

TIR: How is this good deed helping your Rutherford neighbors?

MK: With a small portion of people thinking of themselves and “hoarding” supplies, it makes it difficult for people who want to do just average household shopping. We’re really hoping this can help people get by with something they couldn’t find in the store, or having to wait until their next paycheck to go looking for it. It may not help people with everything, but something is always better than nothing.

TIR: Both you and your wife served in the military, it seems part of your nature to take care of and protect others. Would you say that is true?

MK: It’s definitely true. The military teaches you so many things but one of the most important lessons is how beneficial teamwork is. We had a saying heard frequently, “one team - one fight.” The town of Rutherford is a team, and when we act like one it’s better for everyone. At this moment we are all banded together towards what is basically survival, and people need basic necessities to survive. If we have any ability to help someone else get by with these kinds of essentials, then it’s our duty to do so.

TIR: Do you have any words of inspiration to share at this difficult time?

MK: Aside from the obligatory “Stay home!”, I’d say that patience and forgiveness are your friends. Be patient with your spouse, your children, your work, and most importantly yourself. We all want this to be over tomorrow, but in reality, it’s just not the case. We will have good days and rough days - they are inevitable. But you are human - forgive yourself, forgive others, and do it frequently and intentionally.

To learn more about Matthew's and Leyla's military service, check out our Local Heroes section by clicking here.

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