Good Neighbor Alerts

Good Neighbor Alerts is a new series focusing on the positive impact one Manatee neighbor has made on another neighbor or organization. If you have a good neighbor story you'd like to share, please email us.

Loving Thy Neighbor: February 2, 2021

Food Pantry PhotosMost people know the golden rule to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” but few have built it into a daily routine. Realizing the additional impact the pandemic has had on their South Bradenton neighborhood, Melinda Zarzycki-Harris and her husband, Steven Harris, recently installed a little pantry in their front yard.

Much like a single kitchen cabinet, at about 4 feet high by 2-and-a-half feet wide, the pantry, crafted by Michelle and Clint Diamond, holds a variety of items: Food, laundry soap, toilet paper, pet food, paper plates, plastic forks and other basic supplies.

Zarzycki-Harris had been wanting an outdoor pantry for a long time, although several people scoffed at the idea.

“People laughed, saying it would be destroyed, that it would not last. But it has been the complete opposite. We watch families stop and get a meal for the evening, kids grab breakfast on way to school and homeless people grab a meal or toothbrush,” said Zarzycki-Harris.

The goal was to carry their neighbors over to the next day. On the glass door a message is written: “Take What You Need; Leave What You can.”

“Our box is a community box so many folks take items, but just as many stock items. It is a beautiful perfect circle,” said Zarzycki-Harris.

The pantry is restocked every day with sufficient items to make a complete meal, such as tuna, spaghetti sauce, noodles and rice. The Harris’ also make a conscious effort to provide food for the many children in their neighborhood, most of whom attend Title 1 schools and pass by their house as they walk from school or the bus.

“We have tons and tons of kids in our neighborhood, so we also stock snack bars, cereal and small kid-friendly meals like mac and cheese and Spaghetti Os, applesauce and fruit. The kid-friendly items go very quickly, as well as envelopes of chicken salad or tuna,” said Zarzycki-Harris.

The Harris’ are not new to the Love Thy Neighbor philosophy. For the past seven years, their faith-based, non-profit organization, Bring on the Ministry, has been passing out snacks and water weekdays. And two years ago, they partnered with the Bridge Church of Bradenton to provide double mobile hot showers to those who are homeless. Equipped with air conditioning and a tankless hot water system, the showers can handle up to 125 people before needing to be refilled. To date, it has provided over 1,500 showers.

The outdoor food pantry is the latest way Bring on the Ministry serves their neighbors, and although small, the pantry has had a big effect.

“This box has brought me COMPLETE JOY! The tiny box is changing a community in a small but mighty way. This li'l box is showing love, kindness and help in the most beautiful way. It has been a wonderful conversation starter on how to help people. When I fill it and pray over it, Steven and I watch people mouth ‘thank you’ in the direction of our home . . . It has been a huge icon of HOPE,” said Zarzycki-Harris.

Bring on the Ministry is a non-profit 501(c)(3), faith-based organization whose mission is to meet the basic needs of the Manatee community. To find out more, visit their Website at Bringontheministry.com, email them at bringontheministry@gmail.com or call 330-333-9873. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @bringontheministry

A Chicken Story: January 6, 2021


Probation Officer Rick Albrecht with chickensProbation Officer Rick Albrecht of Manatee County’s Offender Work Program, got used to seeing the free-range chickens that roamed Manatee Village Historical Park, one of the approximately 60 county properties the Workforce Offender program maintains on a regular basis. One chicken in particular, Betty, a Rhode Island Red, known for their friendly dispositions (according to the Happy Chicken Coop.com), would greet him consistently. 

Each day the Offender Work group was on the Manatee Village Historical Park, Betty would come up to Albrecht and want to be petted. Albrecht would call the chickens when it was time to put them back in their coop, and they always went willingly. Manatee Village Historical Park Maintenance Tech, Pat Files, said these chickens have very keen eyesight and can spot you from a distance. 

So after Betty and a couple of other chickens over the past several months “flew the coop” (a neighboring raccoon snuck into the coop), Albrecht’s team reinforced the perimeter and door to help ensure no more intruders would get in. Feeling that it was a little lonely with only a few chickens left, Rick searched online and located a Wakulla chicken farmer off of Craigslist and purchased four one-year old chickens on his own. They were delivered the morning of January 6 and made themselves at home right away.   

About the Offender Work Program: Managed by Probation Services, a division of Manatee County Neighborhood Services, the Offender Work Program provides an alternative to jail for certain crimes.  Normally, anywhere from four to 40 offenders perform ongoing maintenance services, mostly lawn care and odd jobs, for 60 Manatee County properties, which consist of parks, three abandoned cemeteries, Animal Services, Maritime Museum and the courthouse. In addition to saving daily jail costs, the Offender Work Program makes money by requiring each participant to pay $20 a day. 

Do you have a neighbor who did something nice for someone recently that should be highlighted? Email us the details and we will create a post.