In 2004, Mike Karl found himself homeless. Living on the streets for six months sparked his passion for helping people, leading him to launch his nonprofit, Cardboard Prophets. This street-based organization focuses on community outreach for the homeless and at-risk populations.
In Lansing, Michigan, which has 170 documented homeless camps, Mike found his inspiration when he learned of miniature pantries. Communities donate items, such as non-perishable foods, socks and shoes, into a pantry available to anyone. “Anybody can come up to those pantries 24 hours a day, no questions asked,” Mike explains.
To make his dream a reality, Mike reached out to Store 2723 in nearby Okemos. The store, and Team Depot, stepped in with Kate Hanna initially rallying support, and now Front End Supervisor Angie Knudstrup. Pro Desk Supervisor Chad Glover created a blueprint. Nick, the assistant store manager in Howell, jumped in to help Chad with the final design. Now, associates use this design for workshops so teams can easily assemble.
Lansing and its surrounding communities now have more than 50 Cardboard Prophet pantries. An interactive Google Map helps individuals easily find them.
Donations have expanded to include pet food and diapers. The homeless often have pets to keep them company or help them feel safe. Oftentimes they’ll offer up what little food they have to their pets first. This makes pantries increasingly important for at-risk individuals in their community.
“It’s exciting that we’re able to help so many people through this,” Angie says. One of the pantries is located in what’s been dubbed the “shelter district” of Lansing, with over 600 pounds of food donated and used weekly.