Leadership Jackson County project team opens Shed for You in Freetown



When it comes to food insecurity, it’s not just an issue in Seymour.

That impacts people all around Jackson County.

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As that realization came to light, the Leadership Jackson County social concerns project team of Kathy Brown, Megan Cherry, Derek Glaze, Julie Hirtzel and Sasha Norman brainstormed to come up with something to address that issue.

“We talked about food insecurity specifically and how there are a lot of different things that go on around the community and around the county, but are we really hitting those outlying areas and areas that are more difficult to get to?” Cherry said. “Maybe people that don’t have transportation to get into town, how can we get food out to the more rural areas of the community?”

The group contacted Jennifer Shade, an adviser of Brownstown Central High School’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter that created the Shed for You community building in Brownstown.

Since the summer of 2019, the building has been accessible 24/7 for people to take or donate nonperishable food items, toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies and more.

“We thought that was an excellent idea, something that’s really low-maintenance but can make a big impact,” Cherry said.

The group discussed areas of Jackson County that could use it the most based on population, and Freetown came up.

They received a donation of a shed from T-Mobile, and once it was put in place, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted and the shed was filled with its first nonperishable items July 7.

“The fact that we’re reaching out to the rural communities, that’s kind of big for me because they always get overlooked compared to Seymour,” Glaze said.

“I think the good thing about here is Clearspring isn’t far, Kurtz isn’t far. You have several little communities that it’s not as far as going all the way to Brownstown or Seymour,” Brown said.

Norman said the shed also benefits people who don’t have transportation to the larger communities where food pantries and stores are available.

“There’s such a huge transportation issue that a lot of people probably don’t even realize,” she said. “People can’t even get to Brownstown to the shed or to Seymour to Anchor House.”

Brown said another benefit of Shed for You is it’s available all of the time, whereas local food pantries are only open certain times and days each month.

“It’s every day,” she said. “They can come get (items they need) on Saturday or Sunday.”

Shed donated

Establishing the shed is one part of the group’s project, and obtaining it was the largest element.

“I just posted on Facebook and said, ‘Does anyone have a shed that they are willing to sell or donate?’” Norman said. “We were just looking for a used one or something that maybe people don’t even use anymore in their backyard.”

She said dozens of people shared the post. Then one day, a friend contacted her and said T-Mobile was looking to make community donations.

About a week after Norman posted on Facebook, T-Mobile said it would donate a shed and also build shelves for the interior. In all, the donation was valued at nearly $2,000.

“We were talking about we were going to have to fundraise to get enough money since we couldn’t find a used one, so we were prepared to do a fundraiser or something, but I was so pumped, I was so excited,” she said of the donation.

“When we had priced some of the sheds, they were pretty pricey, so it would have probably been an extensive little fundraiser for us to do, so we were all super pumped about it,” Cherry said.

The donation was secured before the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, and the delivery of the shed was moved from April to July.

The group worked with Pershing Township Trustee Sharon Yost to find the best location for the shed, and she told them that would be next to the old fire station on North Union Street.

The Jackson County Highway Department agreed to put down gravel so the shed could be placed.

Yost said the Pershing Township Lions Club had taken donations to the Shed for You in Brownstown, so members now will have a chance to keep the new one in Freetown stocked.

She already has had people ask about making donations.

“We’re happy to get it done. We’re happy that Freetown was picked to do it,” Yost said. “It’s like our Dollar General, we have people from Norman and Kurtz, so it’s going to bring people from other areas.”

Doyle Lyon, chairman of the Pershing Township Board, also expressed his appreciation.

“We would just like to thank them for what they did,” he said. “It’s a very worthwhile project.”

Brown said the Shed for You in Freetown will be run by the Brownstown FCA chapter, so members and volunteers will check it regularly to stock and organize items.

“We basically just asked them to do an extension of their project that they are doing in Brownstown, so I think they are excited about it, too,” Cherry said.

The only work left on the building is the group would like to insulate it so it’s more temperature-controlled, especially in the winter when it gets below freezing. Brown said anyone interested in donating the time to add insulation is welcome to reach out to Leadership Jackson County.

Food coalition created

The second part of the group’s project is starting a food coalition for the county, which they are calling Feeding the Community Coalition.

“One thing we discussed was everybody seems to kind of be in their individual silos doing their thing and serving their community, but how do we draw people out of that into a big picture and work together to organize food drives and maybe share food that somebody has excess of?” Cherry said. “Can we bring everybody to the table for the conversation of food insecurity?”

The group recently conducted its first meeting in person and via Zoom and plans to meet at least quarterly.

Cherry said the coalition might fall under the umbrella of Healthy Jackson County, and as executive director of Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry in Seymour, she will ensure the group thrives.

“It’s about working together to make sure that nobody goes hungry in the county,” she said.

“And to make sure that everybody knows where they can either pick up food or donate,” Brown added.

While it took some time to get the project finalized, Hirtzel said she’s glad to see everything come together.

“I felt like it was a long road,” she said.

The group hung in there, though, Cherry said.

“This is really something that I deal with on a daily basis,” she said of food insecurity, “so to have other people have such an interest in that, for me, was just so exciting because this is what I want to do.”

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The Shed for You community building is open 24/7 next to the old fire station along North Union Street in Freetown.

Donations of nonperishable food, personal hygiene items, paper products and other basic needs may be dropped off at any time, and those who need those items may stop by to get them at any time, no questions asked.


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