JEFFERSON COUNTY, Idaho (KXPI) - Yes, the title is supposed to read that way, and here is why. Food stamps cover food, but what about the non-perishable essential items? Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz found a couple of women who saw a need and started a movement with the very familiar name.
He figured what could be better than Paying It Forward... to a Pay It Forward?
"We started as a church project serving the seniors in our area. Then January rolled around and we found out that the need, of course, is still there. And so then, we got together, because we were couponing at the time, and so we are. We started serving year round, using our own monies at the time and couponing to support, out of the Rigby Senior Center, once a month, those who were in need," said co-founder Nikki Bell.
And that is how Pay It Forward Jefferson County was born. It has been going nine years strong now. It is a non-food, non-perishable pantry. You know, the items you don't eat, but are so essential.
The success stories are endless, too many to name, and yet as simple as a box of tissues or wet wipes that makes a recipient cry. But what these two women do with the help of volunteers does come with its challenges.
"Increasing clients. When we first started in the basement of the library, we were serving 40 to 50 clients every two weeks. We are now serving between the Rigby area distribution as well as our three mobile pantry distributions, over 200 a week," said co-founder Cheryl Hively.
They said COVID-19 increased that number exponentially, but it is not going down.
"We thought after COVID things would go down, it would go back to a more normal, and it's not. It's continuing to rise. As food prices go up, the ability to makes ends meet, is much harder," said Bell.
But with donations from the community and the help of the many volunteers, these women and Pay It Forward Jefferson County fill the gap.
So time to Pay It Forward, to Pay It Forward.
"Oh, they're amazing," said Bell, responding to a question from Kunz about volunteers.
"Phenomenal," agreed Hively.
"Boy Scouts, the post office, both donate food. We do several area things that are,..." said Bell, with her voice trailing off, as a woman enters the room.
"Hi. Are you Cheryl and Nikki?" asked the woman.
"Do you want to stop that?" Hively, asked Kunz, referring to the video camera recording the interview.
"Yes, we are," said Bell to the woman.
"Hi. I'm Cassey (Leatham) with Mountain America Credit Union," said the woman.
"Oh, hi," said Hively, shaking Leatham's hand.
"And I'm here to give you guys $500 to help Pay It Forward for Pay It Forward," said Leatham.
"Wooh! That's awesome!" said Bell.
"Yeah so. I know you really wanted me to be quiet when I walked in, but," said Leatham, referring to Hively motioning to her to be quiet when she entered the room.
"I did. Was this planned?" asked Hively.
"Yeah," said Leatham.
"OK. This is so cool!" said Bell.
"So yeah. So that is for you ladies. We really appreciate everything you do to help out the community. This is a really, really needed service and supplies. It's amazing. So you guys are wonderful," said Leatham, handing over an envelope of cash.
"This is awesome!" said Bell.
"Yeah. So I'll give that to you," said Leatham.
"This fills the gap," said Bell, taking the cash.
"It does," said Hively.
"This fills the gap. We have fewer gaps than we used to, but I used to scream 'laundry soap.' And now what do we need? Probably toilet paper," said Bell.
"Probably toilet paper," agreed Hively.
"Thank you so very much," said Bell.
"Thank you ladies. We appreciate you," said Leatham.
Their Facebook page can be found here.
"Pay It Forward" stories air the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at email@example.com.