It’s been more than a year since Lakewood neighbor Beth Basile first set out her Blessing Table stocked with food to feed hungry neighbors during the pandemic. The end of the public health crisis is coming, but Basile has no intention of closing her table.
“At first, I said it will be open until we get out of lockdown,” Basile says. “As this drug on, it became about more than just COVID. It’s about the community, our neighbors.”
Basile started the Blessing Table last spring after a man asked for food. She gave him items from her pantry and set out the Blessing Table the next day. Neighbors are encouraged to take what they need and leave what they can.
“I knew food insecurity was prevalent, especially in this area,” she says. “We have the peace pantries at Woodrow and Lipscomb, but families not connected to the schools have to go to food banks or Fair Park, and they didn’t have a way to get there. We’re in a perfect spot because we’re on the bus line.”
Barring severe weather, the Blessing Table is open most days in front of Basile’s home on Gaston Avenue. She hauled the cumbersome table outside for five months until her husband suggested getting a cart.
“I said, ‘What if someone takes it?’” Basile says. “He said, ‘So?’”
The current cart is the third Basile has purchased.
Keeping the Blessing Table stocked with fruits, grains, soups and sauces was a manageable task when Basile was working from home. When she went back to work as a preschool speech pathologist, it became a challenge to keep the table full. Friends and family supplemented food when she didn’t have time to go to the grocery store. Neighbors also contacted her on social media with donations to keep the table open.
One such neighbor was Junius Heights resident Colleen Mayerhoff, who donated to the Blessing Table before starting a Little Free Pantry in her neighborhood in February. Hers is filled with nonperishable goods, microwave meals and a few clothing items her kids have outgrown.
“I’m glad it’s inspired some people,” Basile says. “It’s good to know there are others out there who care as well. It’s heartwarming to know that people want to give back.”
Basile’s generosity is a trait she says she inherited from her parents. The Lakewood couple was known for opening their home to anyone who needed a place to stay and offering rides to neighbors and strangers alike. When Basile was separating from her first husband, money was tight, but her parents ensured their daughter never experienced hunger.
“My mom has been my rock,” she says. “Talk about fierce females, she’s mine. She’s gotten me through so much. I can appreciate not having resources. I feel very fortunate to be in the position I’m in now — to be able to afford to do this. If I can share what I have, that’s what I want to do.”
Basile has heard firsthand how the Blessing Table has impacted local families through notes of gratitude left in the cart. One woman said she lives off Social Security, and the food helps her get by. Another man said he lost his job at the start of the pandemic after moving from New York. At Christmas, a gentleman from the low-income apartment community across the street gave her a hug and hand delivered a thank you note from residents.
“I want to put names and faces to this because they’re people,” she says, “just like you and me.