Inaugural cohort of Women’s Leadership Academy opens mini food pantries

The inaugural cohort of the Women’s Leadership Academy has installed three community pantries in Faulkner County. 

Community pantries are wooden boxes mounted on a post and are large enough to hold canned goods, cereal boxes, bags of pasta and other necessities. They are placed throughout the community near nonprofits, schools, businesses and residential neighborhoods and stocked by members of the community.

The three added locations in Faulkner County have been dubbed Precious Pantries by the WLA. The installations were completed in partnership with the University of Central Arkansas AmeriCorps, UCA’s BearsServe Leaders and EngageAr.

Women cut ribbon in front of mini pantry

Women’s Leadership Academy cohort cuts ribbon in front of one of three Precious Pantries.

Women’s Leadership Academy began in January 2022. Shaneil Ealy, associate vice president of outreach and community engagement at UCA and co-director of the academy, says the academy seeks to give women skills for leadership capacity. 

“Community service and community engagement is really important to us, and we have embedded that into the academy,” Ealy said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Pine Street Community Museum. “In January, we had a retreat and invited the Conductor to facilitate an innovation lab. In the retreat, we learned that poverty, homelessness and food insecurity were close to the hearts of many ladies in the academy.”

The pantries coming to fruition, Ealy said, were the result of the inaugural c

Photo of Laura King and Wendy Holbrook

Laura King and Wendy Holbrook converse outside Pine Street Community museum after the Precious Pantry ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 6.

lass answering the call to serve. 

“This group of ladies embarked on a giant journey together six months ago. We are from all walks of life, political persuasions and faiths,” said Laura King, a member of the inaugural class and agency engagement director at United Way of Central Arkansas. “When pitching ideas for the community project or the opening retreat, I noticed also that every idea focused on uplifting our neighbors. This Precious Pantry project emerged as the winner to bring the community together and love on our neighbors. But one pantry was not enough. We built three!”

In addition to the Pine Street Community Museum, there are pantries located at the Faulkner County Senior Wellness and Activity Center and the Faulkner County Library. 

“Today we are here celebrating not just the completion of a project but we’re celebrating our community,” King said. “These are all places where people from every walk of life, every political persuasion and every faith can come together to learn, reminisce and help one another. So our hope is that these pantries will be a continuation of that. And as the motto says, ‘Take what you need. Leave what you can’ and love your neighbors well.” 

Jamisa Nuness-Hogan, a member of the inaugural class and owner and director of  Kids World Child Care Center thanked those who made the pantries possible.

“This is very dear to our hearts and we want to keep paying it forward,” Nuness-Hogan said.

Di'Anka Moton organizes food items in the Precious Pantry.

Di’Anka Moton organizes food items in the Precious Pantry.

About the Women’s Leadership Academy
The Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA), through the Women’s Leadership Network at the University of Central Arkansas, is dedicated to empowering, enriching and embracing women in our region and facilitating their leadership development. WLA is designed for those who identify as women and aspire to become bold leaders representing greater equity, inclusivity and excellence in their fields. Through expert speakers, hands-on experiences and community service, the participants of the Women’s Leadership Academy will develop customizable skills in a network of diverse women sharing a commitment to their own beloved community.