HUXLEY, Iowa — Danielle Thomas has realized something about her neighbors: They don’t give up.
“It’s been amazing,” she said of the commitment she has seen in Huxley. Thomas’ family moved to town last summer after her husband lost his job in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ballard Community Clothes and Food Pantry provided an additional lift for her family of six. “It’s just a really welcoming place.”
Last August, the pantry’s founder, Jeriann McLaughlin found out the donated garage stall where she had started the town’s pantry 28 years ago would have to clear out. The business that owned it was selling the property. At the time, she told WHO 13, “It threw me for a loop a little bit.”
But local business owners, Alissa and Bruno Zugay, donated a former dentist’s office. The challenge: it needed some major renovation work. McLaughlin wasn’t sure how it would all work. But she and other volunteers moved the pantry’s donated items to the new place with hopes of a newfound purpose. They found it. “There for a while, if I thought it, it happened,” she recounted. “I don’t know how, why or what. I have no idea.”
Someone donated drywall. People donated money for shelving. Sherwin Williams offered paint. A neighbor sprayed. McLaughlin’s former student now living in California created a sign that would light up in the front window. And a retired Ankeny minister provided the letters to hang outside the front of the store. It just all came together.
Volunteers like Anne and Steve Quick, who previously owned and operated a hardware store in town for 35 years. Both were retired but eager to help.
“I’ve always been able to work with my hands. And being retired,” Steve Quick said, “I’ve got time. I can pick and choose what I want to do. And this is what I want to do.”
“We saw those bare two-by-fours hanging out,” Anne Quick added, “And we said, ‘Oh! We gotta go. We gotta do that. This is something that we can do.'”
Larry Wilson said that he happened to be walking by with his dog one day and saw the Quicks working. “I had a little over 10 years in industrial maintenance,” he explained and he felt a need to help. “You just can’t question the Lord’s timing about doing that kind of thing. It’s called ‘Iowa nice’. But the scriptures say, help your neighbor. That’s what we do. That’s what we do in Iowa. We help our neighbors.”
McLaughlin is overwhelmed by all the assistance and feels especially thankful that the larger pantry location can help more people in need. She said, “It’s so humbling. It really is. If you’re not a believer in something else, it makes a believer of you. It truly does.”
The pantry is located at 605 N Main Avenue Suite 105 in Huxley.