Huntington Beach man gives back at Thanksgiving through front-yard food pantry
Huntington Beach resident Malcolm “Mac” Bishop plans to host a small family gathering for Thanksgiving this year.
“We’ll barbecue a turkey, like we always do,” said Bishop, who lives with his wife Kim, youngest son, Tyler, and his son’s girlfriend, Brooke.
Mac Bishop knows that not everyone is as fortunate as his family.
In this case, more to eat sits just a couple dozen feet outside of the front door of the Bishops’ home on Rotterdam Lane.
Mac Bishop, an avid gardener, put a help-yourself table out there in March just to get rid of extra produce. It has turned into a small help-yourself pantry, where people can either bring food to share or take it, no questions asked.
“It wasn’t an original idea from me,” said Bishop, 57, who works in sales and marketing but added he has been underemployed during the pandemic. “It really wasn’t even all that philanthropic when we started. I just have this thing about wasting food and people going hungry. We just wanted to share some of it, and it turned out other people like to do that same thing.”
The Costa Mesa nonprofit started bright and early Monday morning and was still passing out bags on Wednesday. Organizers estimate when all is said and done, the meals will help feed some 1,200 area families.
Bishop upgraded the operation, building a structure that resembles a large birdhouse. He said he plans to install a door with a plexiglass window. He also has a bottle of hand sanitizer inside the pantry.
People have certainly embraced the idea. The pantry was empty Monday, when Bishop made a post on Facebook asking for donations for Thanksgiving week. Hours later, the pantry was overflowing with food.
When there is too much food out front, Bishop will simply take it to store inside his home. He will also sometimes donate it to an Orange County-based nonprofit called Bracken’s Kitchen.
He said Wednesday that he has three times the pantry amount inside after the most recent flood of generosity.
“It had gone empty, and within hours people were bringing stuff by,” he said. “It got stuffed in no time. Then [Tuesday] night, I was working in the garage at probably about 10 o’clock. I thought, ‘I better poke my nose in there and see what’s going on.’ And we just had bags of food all over the ground here.”
Here’s a summary of tips on how to have a safer Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bishop doesn’t want the pantry to become a hangout, but so far so good. None of his neighbors have complained, he said.
“We don’t stand here and watch, because I know some people who are taking don’t feel awesome about it,” he said. “We try to just keep our heads low or whatever, but we do have regulars that come by. One lady came by again [Wednesday] morning with her cart. You can see, she’ll read the labels and stuff; she’s not just hoarding. She’ll see what she likes in there and she’ll grab it, and that makes us feel good.”
On Wednesday, Lana Miller of Huntington Beach brought by a grocery bag of supplies including stuffing, mashed potatoes and canned vegetables.
“I thought, ‘I can’t take a turkey, but I can take other stuff that goes with it,’” Miller said.
Miller said she has driven by the pantry before, but she also saw Bishop’s recent Facebook post. He will also sometimes post on the community forum Nextdoor.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s a good, neighborly thing to do, especially now. Especially now, but always. I love that it filled up so fast. You know, everybody doing a little makes a huge difference. I’ve always believed that. When everyone contributes, it overflows and makes it what it’s supposed to be.”
Huntington Beach resident Kristen Hill also dropped off a bag of groceries on Wednesday.
“Our community that seems so big sometimes, it makes it small,” Hill said. “We get to know each other.”
Orange County reported three deaths due to COVID-19 and an additional 1,199 cases on Wednesday. Public health officials are asking for gathering to be limited with the holidays set to begin with Thanksgiving.
Bishop called the support from Surf City “amazing.” He knows that his pantry will help make a better Thanksgiving for others in the community.
“I definitely meant to tug on some heartstrings,” he said of his recent social media post. “The need is year-round, but imagine the feeling on Thanksgiving when you know others have abundance and you’ve got nothing, or someone else has nothing. There are good people out there, and that’s why this works.”
The pantry will be available on Thursday. For the exact location of the pantry or more information, Bishop asked those interested to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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