History of the Cabinet & Maintenance

The original Community Cabinet was started by Katie Tobias and her husband, Jeremiah Tobias in 2020 during Covid. They saw a need in their community for activities to give kids something to do while being stuck at home. So, the cabinet started with puzzles and games for parents to take to their kids to keep them entertained at home during this unknown time. As the cabinet began to grow Katie and Jeremiah saw the need for food and hygiene products in their community. Therefore, the cabinet began to shift towards a place where people could come and get food items that they needed. 

Olyvia Saxton and Rachael Sierakowski began working at Katie Tobias State Farm in August of 2021, and experienced first- hand the need that was expressed in their community and how the cabinet was helping. They realized that there was a need to expand the cabinet as it has been frequently used as a tool for those in need and the structure was not doing as good of a job as it used to. As time has passed and the cabinet has gained new popularity, it has experienced some structural issues such as: being unable to hold enough food, losing its door, and an ant infestation. Due to this, Rachael and Olyvia decided to pitch an idea to build a new Community Cabinet. They created a Facebook page to help the cabinet gain popularity and attention. They also began focusing on bringing in food and other products. 

On February 26, 2022, Olyvia and Rachael participated in United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties' annual “Pitch-er This!” competition, which is a competition focused on youth in the Gratiot-Isabella community. Participants bring attention to ways that they believe their community could use some improvement. Olyvia and Rachael decided to enter their Good Neighbor project in which they would expand the Community Cabinet. The cabinet at the time was just a standing structure that sat outside of Katie Tobias State Farm. The idea of the cabinet has always been for individuals to “take what you need, leave what you don’t, and donate if you can.” The community has faithfully given to the cabinet since the start, and it is used frequently by those in need. The cabinet is not monitored, which provides a discrete and private option for those in need to come and take what they need. They presented and were awarded $5,000 to update and expand the cabinet and turn the green space into a pocket park where community members can gather to connect, relax, and enjoy downtown Alma. 

We have been humbled by the organizations that donated their time and resources to get the cabinet built, concrete poured, and tables made.  We have a vision and plans for expansion for the space in the future. The increased amount of donations over the past few years required us to shift our board room at State Farm into a food pantry to stock the products donated. One of the secrets to the cabinet's success is the autonomy and 24/7 availability. No one in need is ever turned away.  The cooperative students at State Farm dedicate time to cleaning, stocking, and maintaining the cabinet. We do not track or measure the number of people that the cabinet serves but it is continually replenished and helping those in need every day.  

Over the years, the community cabinet team has taken on some great new members that start as high school cooperative students and they do a great deal to help keep the cabinet maintained and stocked each day! As each of the students graduates, they all take a piece of the cabinet with them. No matter where each one goes, they will assure you that the cabinet has had a huge impact on their life and they learned a great deal through their experience.

Want to Make a Difference in your Community?

Here is the Link to all of the information on the United Way’s annual “Pitch-er This!” competition. Help make a difference in your community! 

PITCH-ER THIS! — United Way of Gratiot & Isabella Counties (uwgic.org)