19-year-old builds Chicago-area micropantries through 'Girl In Lansing' nonprofit

ByJordan Arseneau Localish logo
Friday, December 15, 2023
19-year-old builds Chicago-area micropantries through nonprofit
Giving back by feeding the hungry, Korey Ziemkowski is blazing a trail for young people to get involved in their communities.

FLOSSMOOR, Ill. -- On an early Sunday morning with the help of her parents, Korey Ziemkowski of Lansing erected a micropantry in front of the Community House at Flossmoor Community Church in Flossmoor.

It was the 10th micropantry installed in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area for the 19-year-old, who began building and stocking her first location at the age of 16.

"I'm amazed by how many people use the micropantry," said Ziemkowski. "Some locations, like Hammond, Indiana's, are getting used over two dozen times a day."

Ziemkowski said the mission of her nonprofit organization, "Girl In Lansing," is to help families in Lansing and surrounding areas through food donations and food centers. The micropantries, built in her grandmothers garage by herself and her father Kevin Ziemkowski, are strategically placed to serve those who need it most.

"A lot of the micropantries are right next to schools or right next to churches where some people feel shame," said Korey. "A lot of high schoolers might need the food and they should not feel that shame."

Her charitable work was first sparked by volunteering for her family's nonprofit "Helmets For Cody," named in honor of her brother who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a bike accident at the age of eight. The organization, which holds an annual toy drive and raises tens of thousands annually through fundraising, has helped bond the family and taught them the value of giving back.

"It really did bring us together closer as a family," said Kevin. "Those morals that were instilled in my children during that time; they just took that ball and they ran with it."

A micropantry is a freestanding cabinet filled with nonperishable foodstuff and household items that anyone can access. Korey said she was inspired during the pandemic to create micropantries as a way for families to take and donate food in a contactless way.

"I love that it shows compassion and she shows her heart for other people that she doesn't know," said Kevin. "It makes a parent feel good."

After receiving her associates degree at South Suburban College, Korey is transferring to Olivet Nazarene University with a plan to major in business with a focus in nonprofits. She said shes organizing with community members to help keep the micropantries stocked and maintained while shes away.

"I've been able to help so many people and likewise they have taught me more than life can describe," said Koreyi. "I think there are so many outlets and so many opportunities where you can get involved; you just have to open your eyes and find them and try something new."

In 2021, Korey received the Pinnacle Award through the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana for her work building micropantries. For more information on Korey Ziemkowski and the locations of her micropantries, click here.