Columbia Memorial Health (1) Careers

GOOD NEWS!: Kindness Kabinet offers help, no questions asked


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Ray, left, and Lisa Janicke, were honored for their work operating The Kindness Kabinet food pantry. They are pictured with Stephen Coye, president of the New York State Grange. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Editor’s Note: A helping hand with no strings attached and no questions asked is a rare find. One couple in Selkirk is doing just that — helping their neighbors who are having trouble making ends meet. It’s not about the glory, it’s simply about being kind. Here is the story of the Janicke family and how they felt prompted to open a food pantry right outside their house.

SELKIRK — Lisa and Ray Janicke saw a need in their community and knew they could do something about it — and then they did it.

The Janickes opened The Kindness Kabinet outside their home on Thatcher Street in December 2020, a privately funded and operated food pantry, available to anyone who needs a helping hand. They invite anyone who needs assistance putting food on the table to stop by and pick up what they need — there is no paperwork, no income requirements, and they don’t have to call ahead or ask permission.

Just stop by and take what you need, any hour of the day or night. It doesn’t get easier or simpler than that.

“I wanted to help somehow. We started with a little bookshelf and I put some canned foods out, then it just got bigger and bigger,” Lisa Janicke said. “In the front of our house we have a concrete slab and an outdoor storage shed. There is a refrigerator in there with eggs and milk, and there are donated items like pasta and cereal. Anyone can come by anytime, 24/7.”

Bethlehem Grange 138 saw what the Janickes were doing quietly and without fanfare, and decided to help them with their good works. Grange members have donated to The Kindness Kabinet, and last weekend presented the couple with a Community Citizen Award.

“Our community service chairman Charles Ryan brought up the idea of giving them an award and it kind of blossomed — we got the national Grange to provide us with a paper award, and the New York State Grange president, Steve Coye, will be presenting it here at our subordinate Grange, Bethlehem Grange 137,” said Jackie Schrom, secretary of the Bethlehem Grange. “We solicited a few grocery stores and we got some gift cards from them, and the grangers themselves put up a nice amount for them.”

Food and other items donated by Bethlehem Grange 137 during the ceremony. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Coye presented the Janickes with their award at a ceremony at the Grange on Oct. 16. The Janickes are not grangers, Schrom said.

“They are just wonderful neighborhood people,” she said.

The Kindness Kabinet is privately run by Lisa and Ray Janicke, with food and occasionally other products like pet food and household items paid for out of the family’s own pocket. Some donations do come in and donors are encouraged to contribute canned foods, eggs, milk, cereal, pasta, pet food and other food items.

“She has about 10 families and a few individuals that stop in regularly, but it is open to anyone,” Schrom said. “These are individuals that out of the kindness of their hearts started this food pantry. They are middle-income people — she is a registered nurse and Ray is a truck driver. They just want to help their fellow people because, as the Janickes say, ‘kindness starts at home.’”

Bethlehem Grange 137 President Carol Carpenter said the group has not given out a community service award in many years, but felt the Janickes were certainly worthy of the honor.

“We picked them because they are local and they help people right here,” Carpenter said.

The Kindness Kabinet outside the Janickes’ home. Contributed photo

Bethlehem Grange Community Service Chairman Charles Ryan said The Kindness Kabinet was started with the purest of intentions.

“Out of nowhere, out of the thin air, they started this food pantry,” Ryan said. “They have no restrictions and no requirements. If you need food, they say come — they will help as best they can. Not only are they helping people with their families, but also with their pets. They take in dog food or cat food to help the furry members of the family, so people can also donate pet food.”

Lisa Janicke said she saw a need and just wanted to help.

“I am a nurse and I talk to people all the time that have food insecurity, among other things, and with the pandemic, everyone was really having a rough time, so I wanted to find a way to help,” she said. “We help probably 10-15 families and sometimes there are new people. We have had some people come at night. One couple did talk to us and said they live in Albany.”

Ray Janicke said the food pantry was his wife’s idea, but he supported her all the way.

“This is something my wife wanted to do and I totally support her,” Ray Janicke said. “I told her if she wanted to do it, I would back her 100%. I said she should do it if it makes her happy and I have supported her ever since.”

He also told his co-workers about The Kindness Kabinet and one individual donated $700 worth of food to the effort.

Non-perishable items offered at The Kindness Kabinet food pantry, no questions asked. Contributed photo

Stephen Coye, president of the New York State Grange, presented the couple with the award during the ceremony.

“This meets human needs and the motivation for it is pure, out of unselfishness,” Coye said before the ceremony. “It is being done because it is something that needs to be done and has internal motivation to do it.”

The Kindness Kabinet is located at 29 Thatcher St. in Selkirk.

Related Posts