Front yard food pantry serves community, continues acts of kindness

Published: Apr. 14, 2020 at 10:28 AM CDT
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On Prairie Road on Madison’s west side, Nicki and Kurt Stapleton have created a food pantry in their front yard to help out during these challenging times.

“I was kind of surprised by the need,” Nicki said. “I knew that there was a need but I was really surprised at the number of people we were seeing stopping by, coming up walking, people in our own neighborhood.”

Nicki got the idea to create the pantry, which is a wooden cabinet standing in their front yard, after her husband Kurt, a recovery coach, began collecting food for a man he was helping.

“My husband Kurt, he was helping someone who was experiencing homelessness and had just gotten their first apartment, and he got a bunch of food donations for him,” Nicki said. “It was more than he could use. I suggested that we put it out in a couple of boxes, it was just two cardboard boxes on top of each other with a handwritten sign, and it just kind of exploded from there.”

NBC15 first met Kurt in late 2019 as part of our Making a Difference series about

. After struggling with addiction and ultimately serving time in prison, Kurt turned his life around. In prison, he learned to crochet, and he took that skill into a new chapter of his life. Now, through his Battle Cap Project, he crochets caps for cancer patients. He also runs art classes for those struggling with addiction to aid in their recovery, and serves as a recovery coach.

From one act of kindness to another, Nicki saw the unused food donations Kurt had collected and turned it into an opportunity to help even more people.

From cardboard boxes, to a cabinet along with a Facebook page, Nicki said the free pantry has taken off.

“The first day we put this cabinet up we had eight drop offs and at least 10 people came to pick up,” she said.

Nicki said some people will come by to drop off donations, and some will take what they need. The Stapletons even put a light at the base of the pantry for those who need to access it at night. She said they’ve been collecting a lot of non-perishables, and that personal products are in high demand.

”The biggest thing I’ve had requests for are personal products like diapers and wipes and tampons and deodorant, stuff like that,” she said.

Nicki said she’s been pleasantly surprised at the way people have been respecting, and replenishing the pantry. She said she has restocked it about four or five times now.

"It says a lot of great things about the people in the neighborhood and the people that are coming from other neighborhoods that are taking care of each other,” she said.

As for Kurt, he said he’s proud of the efforts his wife is taking to give back.

"I’m proud of her. It's great to see that’s she’s so willing to do this and help the people in the community,” he said. “The response has just been overwhelming, you see people all day everyday dropping off and picking up. It's really cool."

Nicki said she hopes to keep the pantry going to continue helping.

"I know some people that are using it need it all the time, so we're going to try to make it permanent," she said. "Other people may just need it right now because of COVID-19, and maybe later they'll be able to help."

To learn more about the pantry and its location, head to their