Joe Spaulding discusses the creation of Paw's Pantry


In 2013, IUPUI students conducted research regarding food pantries on college campuses. They discovered that many people were using food pantries at urban institutions.

This information led students and staff to collaborate and to lay the groundwork for Paw’s Pantry. That same year, IUPUI junior, Joe Spaulding, was asked to help start it. He states, “The staff members in charge of the program in OSI [Office of Student Involvement] approached me and asked if I wanted to help get this pantry off the ground. They approached me because of my experience working with food pantries and homeless shelters in Indianapolis. And I guess they thought I was a semi-decent leader. So I said yes!”

Joe had volunteered previously with food pantries like Third Phase in Noblesville, Indiana, and the Salvation Army downtown. His experience provided him a base-level understanding of how Paw’s Pantry should operate.

Being in the Sam H. Jones program and being involved in community service in high school, I had a lot of experience with food pantries ahead of time.

Joe Spaulding

Joe worked tirelessly over the summer to create trainings for volunteers, discover the most efficient way to pack food, acquire food sources, plan the check-in and check-out process, build shelves, and paint the pantry for the opening of Paw’s Pantry. He wanted students to easily access Paw’s Pantry on campus because “it's a convenient way for them to get essentials like food, toiletries, and new clothing. I know I spent anywhere between 12 and 16 hours on campus every day going to class, studying, etc. So for someone to be able to drop by the pantry between classes is a big deal.”

Opening day of Paws Pantry
Food donation bin for Paws Pantry. These can be found in many places around campus.
Paws Pantry participates in tabling events, where people can learn more about the program and also donate.

On the first day that Paw’s Pantry opened, only four people stopped by. However, Paw’s Pantry now serves over 150 IUPUI community partners each week according to IUPUI’s student affairs website.

Joe faced many challenges while developing the pantry. He states, “The biggest struggle during my time at Paw's Pantry was keeping up with the amount of traffic we would see. . . . There were some days when the shelves were nearly bare. At the time, the organization did not have very much money to go buy extra supplies. It depended entirely on donations.”

During Joe’s time at IUPUI as a Sam H. Jones scholar and student, he gained a passion for community involvement and the knowledge to be a civically engaged graduate and professional. His motivation for community work is his faith and his understanding of power and privilege. Joe says, “More simply put, my faith drives me to show love to others.”

The knowledge I gained at IUPUI informs how I can best go about showing that love.

Joe Spaulding

Joe believes a lack of civic engagement in today's society stems primarily from two major lies: “the problems are too big for us to solve, and the small things we try to do don't matter.” He tries his best to focus on small things he can do in his day-to-day life to positively impact the community and to support professionals who work on the big problems.

Joe believes that “service is giving of your time, talent, or treasure in both big and little ways—however much one can reasonably give.” He holds the belief that he should help less fortunate individuals. “If I have the means to do it, what excuse do I have?” he asks.

This belief was demonstrated by Joe’s participation in Paw’s Pantry. An experience that changed his life forever. He explains, “Being a part of the creation of Paw's Pantry made the biggest difference in my life. It taught me so many skills and lessons that I use every day in my personal and professional life. The skills it taught me are obvious—time management, organization, process control, etc., but the lessons that Paw's Pantry taught me were life changing."

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