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Serving Others

Student establishes “micro food pantry” to help those in need

Kellie Irvin, ’23, dreams of someday opening a day care center. However, she’s not waiting for her college degree before setting out to improve the lives of others.

The Bridgewater State University student started a micro food pantry in her hometown of Medford. People can take food for free and leave donations to keep the shelves of the wooden shed-like structure stocked.

“With everything I do, I make sure I’m able to involve children in some way,” said Kellie, who is majoring in early childhood education and minoring in special education. “My passion is children, especially children with disabilities because I’m able to connect with them.”

Kellie, who is deaf but can hear with assistance from an electronic device called a cochlear implant, found vocational students to build the structure and discussed her project and food insecurity with middle schoolers. She presented at many meetings before gaining city support for the pantry, which is located along Riverside Avenue near a senior center and affordable housing.

The shed-like Community Fridge Kellie built.

Kellie first attended Mount Ida College. After it permanently closed, she transferred to BSU and found a program that is preparing her to start that day care center.

“I love it,” she said. “I suggest Bridgewater to everyone thinking of applying to college. It’s a great campus with great people and a lot of support in any field you’re in.”

In addition to education classes, Kellie studies Arabic and Spanish so she can converse with children of diverse backgrounds who she hopes to one day serve. She already knows American Sign Language.

“My overall goal is to create a day care where everyone is welcome,” she said.

For now, she’s succeeded at helping meet other community needs. Kellie launched a clothing brand called LOPH (Love OverPowers Hate) in 2017. She uses a portion of the profits to buy food for the micro pantry and support causes such as the American Society for Deaf Children.

Decorated with paintings of fruits and vegetables, the pantry includes a refrigerator with a carrot-shaped handle for perishable products. Kellie checks on it daily and is amazed at the plethora of donations.

“The support from the community has been great,” she said. “I feel like a pantry fridge in every town would just make things easier for everyone, and it helps the town come together.”

The pantry’s Facebook group has 300 followers. And WBZ radio, the Medford Transcript newspaper and the popular Only in Boston Twitter account featured the project, which is a success because of Kellie’s drive to make a difference.

“Throughout my entire life, I’ve been told you can’t do that,” she said. “Now, I feel I have to prove as a deaf person I can do these things.”

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