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St. Petersburg resident helps others from a corner of her neighborhood

When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Debbie Pollock began putting food and other essential items on a table in her yard.
Debbie Pollock set up a table of free food in her Central Oak Park neighborhood in St. Petersburg.
Debbie Pollock set up a table of free food in her Central Oak Park neighborhood in St. Petersburg. [ MAGGIE DUFFY | Times ]
Published Jul. 10, 2020

While thinking about all of the people losing their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic and not getting unemployment, St. Petersburg resident Debbie Pollock decided that she would find a way to help those who were hungry.

She’d seen an article about a person who was setting food out for neighbors to take and became inspired.

So on March 24, she and her husband, Dwight, put a table out under a tree in the corner of her yard in St. Petersburg’s Central Oak Park neighborhood and filled it with about $25 worth of groceries.

“Be Kind ..... Share,” she wrote on a sign affixed to the front of the table. “Take only what you need. Leave what you can. Thanks for helping if you are able! Hope this helps a little.”

The sign that Debbie Pollock put on her free food table.
The sign that Debbie Pollock put on her free food table. [ MAGGIE DUFFY | Times ]

She posted a picture of her table on the Central Oak Park Association Facebook page. Donations of food from neighbors started rolling in — and haven’t stopped.

Some neighbors bring items from the food pantry at their church. Another man brings loads of produce each week, so much that Pollock had to use the Facebook group to urge neighbors who aren’t needy to take some of it. And recently, a woman sent her a full order via Instacart.

Pollock regularly posts on the neighborhood Facebook page when she has a full table. The comments include people telling her what they made with the food, or that it came in handy when they were trying to avoid the grocery store. One person thanked her and said people like her are the reason they love St. Pete.

She is not sure how many people come to take her food, but it gets depleted pretty regularly.

Pollock estimates more than 100 neighbors have donated food. Some are regulars. And she’s met a bunch of new neighbors because of the project.

One neighbor who had seen the project on nextdoor.com came by. As it turned out, not only had her husband been good friends with Pollock’s son, but the woman herself had been in Pollock’s Girl Scout troop when she was a girl.

Pollock is still a troop leader, so a sign with information about the Girl Scouts hangs above the table.

She’s also learned to cleverly create ways to keep critters away from the table, which she and her husband cover every night. They hung CDs from ribbons in the tree, which twirl around when the breeze comes. Pollock said the movement scares birds away — although a squirrel did get away with a loaf of bread one time.

CDs help scare birds and other critters from taking food from the table that Debbie Pollock set out in her neighborhood.
CDs help scare birds and other critters from taking food from the table that Debbie Pollock set out in her neighborhood. [ MAGGIE DUFFY | Times ]

Pollock describes herself as kind of an introvert who doesn’t seek the limelight and is humble about her effort. But she’ll keep it going as long as she can.

“It’s just the Girl Scout in me following the promise ‘to help people at all times,‘ ” she said.