Last week, Menlo Park resident Xan Craven said she received a text from her husband asking her where the food and drinks they had stored in the carport had gone.
"I hadn't moved them," she said.
So she checked their home's security camera footage, and saw that while she was out picking up her daughter from preschool, a guy on a bike had ridden into the carport and stolen the food and drinks. They were valued food items that her family doesn't usually buy, she said, ones that her husband, a neurocritical care fellow at Stanford, had treated himself to after working long hours in the ICU. Earlier this year, he'd also had a nice bike stolen from the carport, she said.
As a photographer staying home full-time with her children, she said, the theft made her feel anxious and unsafe. She posted about the experience online and received some support, but also some harsher remarks. People told her the person who stole the food may have needed it; that she shouldn't have stored the food in so accessible a location; and that hopefully it went to someone in need, she said.
"The food wasn't a really big deal, but again ... it was just discouraging," Craven said.
She said she felt frustrated on her husband's behalf, knowing he's been working extra hard comforting people on their deathbeds who aren't allowed to have their families visit the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But, thinking about her spouse's attitude of charity and compassion during this difficult time, Craven said she decided to react to the situation with kindness, too.
With her 2- and 4-year-old children, she picked out some snacks from the pantry and used them to fill a large storage bin, which they set on the street corner. They posted about it online via Nextdoor and some local Facebook groups telling people to take what they want or donate if they can.
The response, she said, blew her away. "I was flooded with kind comments and supportive people, not only cheering me on, but asking if they could contribute to the food bin as well," she said.
So many neighbors donated food that the bin overflowed, she said. So when a neighbor noticed that someone was giving away an old locker and offered to donate it, she agreed to take on a new project. She took it home and painted the locker a cream color with trees on it and added a whiteboard inside to enable people to write down requests for any specific items they need.
The family returned the locker to the corner, located at the intersection of Curtis Street and Live Oak Avenue, restocked with food donated by her daughter's preschool teacher.
"Hopefully the locker will continue to hold many items for those in need during these difficult times," Craven said.