Hope Box food pantries installed at London parks

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Representatives from London Correctional Institution (LoCI) installed custom-made Hope Box food pantries at Cowling Park and Merri-Mac Park in London on March 29. On hand were: (from left) Jason Rainer; Andy Skinner, LoCI maintenance repair worker; Greg Newkirk, LoCI building construction superintendent; LoCI Warden Mike DeMartino; London Mayor Patrick Closser; Eric Morris, LoCI public information officer; Harley Carter; Devin Hoover, deputy warden of special services; and Brad Caughman, LoCI deputy warden of operations.

(Posted April 1, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Different groups of people can work together to build hope. Evidence of that fact now stands in Cowling Park and Merri-Mac Park in London.

On March 29, representatives from London Correctional Institution (LoCI) delivered and installed Hope Boxes at the parks. The  structures, custom-made by incarcerated individuals at LoCI, serve as small food pantries stocked with non-perishable items for anyone in the community who needs them. Soon, LoCi will install additional Hope Boxes at London’s dog park and one other location in London yet to be determined.

“We’re big on community engagement. We have a lot of incarcerated adults who want to give back to the community,” said Warden Mike DeMartino.

As for why the institution chose food pantries as a way to help, DeMartino said, “A lot of people are struggling today, and they don’t know how to ask for help or where to go for help. This gives them a place to go for their next meal.”

The project got rolling in November when LoCI staff members took the Hope Box idea to the institution’s maintenance shop which employs eight incarcerated individuals.

“They came up with a design that was durable, weather resistant, and something that represents the institution and the community,” said Brad Caughman, deputy warden of operations.

William Basham and Donnie Hill, incarcerated individuals at London Correctional Institution, stand alongside two of the four Hope Box food pantries they helped to build for installation around the city of London.

The box at Cowling Park is the largest of the four. The other three boxes are approximately two-thirds the size. LoCI staff and incarcerated adults will make donations on an ongoing basis to keep the boxes stocked with food. The public is welcome to donate items, as well. Besides non-perishable food, dog treats and dog toys are also welcome at the dog park Hope Box.

City officials appreciate the institution’s decision to place the boxes around London. Mayor Patrick Closser was on hand for the installation at Cowling Park, as was Eve Breedlove, the city’s executive assistant, who helped to coordinate the project.

“The Hope Boxes are a testament to the power of collaboration,” Breedlove said. “This initiative allows incarcerated individuals to continue contributing to the community and provides London residents with accessible food pantries in the heart of our parks.”

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