Florissant man opens food pantry in his front yard

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FLORISSANT, Mo. – A retired homebuilder is stepping up in a big way during the coronavirus pandemic. He has started a food pantry in his front yard on Lindsay Lane in Florissant. People are no longer just taking food, they’re dropping off donations.

“We have Idaho potatoes, sweet potatoes, we’ve got apples, canned soup, canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned beans,” said Mark Behlmann.

It’s been five weeks since Behlmann converted the trailer he uses to haul a lawn tractor into a front yard food pantry.

Behlmann, who serves as president of the Hazelwood School Board, is the president of TEAM Food Pantry, which serves part of north St. Louis County.

He noticed needs had multiplied and localized during the pandemic. They were hitting every neighborhood.

He spent $200 stocking the pantry, at first. Now, the size of it has more than doubled.

“Just by word of mouth it has grown. People stop by. They drop a bag off, 2-3 cans off. Some people stop and pick up 5-6 cans of whatever they need for dinner that night,” he said. “It helps. It puts a smile on people’s face.”

Use of pantry is merit-based: take what you need.

Behlmann wants nothing in return and says he’s already been rewarded beyond measure with all of the “thank yous” and “God bless yous.”

It started on the first day just after Behlmann set the pantry up. A little girl offered him a crumbled dollar for food. Her mom tried to pay him, too.

“I said, ‘No, I don’t want your money.’ She started tearing up. I started tearing up. She gave me my first, ‘God bless you.’ That first one, not more than five minutes after I was done, made it all worth it.”

The pantry will be here as long it’s needed, he said.

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