Local creates GoFundMe page to help restock South Side pantry ransacked on Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, Lotus Rios received an unwelcome gift: someone or multiple people vandalized a free South Side pantry she recently helped launch.

Rios and her friend Belinda Hernandez created The Harlandale Sunshine Pantry in October because of what they said was a food deficiency in their community. The two set out a mini-fridge, containers and a plastic storage cabinet outside of Rios’ front gate for anyone in need to grab fresh goods, bread, canned items, blankets and more.

Rios came across the mess the “bad apples” created just before midnight when she was taking out the trash at her home located on Drury Lane, near McCollum High School on the South Side.

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“They stole the containers with the blankets and jackets in it, knocked everything over and damaged our mini-fridge,” the 42-year-old notary public said. “It’s closed until Jan. 2 because we have to replace everything and buy a larger fridge.”

Rios relaunched the GoFundMe page she created in October to raise funds to stock the pantry. As of Wednesday, the page has raised $330 of its $600 goal.

When the pantry reopens, Rios said she hopes it can continue to live by its motto: “If you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine.”

“With all the stuff going on in the world, we all have to find the light somehow,” she said. “COVID left a lot of gaps in our community, and that’s why we are here. We are proud of the South Side and want to give back. We hope this shows that something little like donating food can be sunshine for someone else.”

The pantry, which is partially named for being located in the Harlandale school district, typically offers bread, eggs, canned food, fresh produce, toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies and blankets. For more information, visit the The Harlandale Sunshine Pantry Facebook page.

Priscilla Aguirre is a general assignment reporter for MySA.com | [email protected] | @CillaAguirre

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