Coy said he hopes to expand the project and build another community locker in the future.
People, businesses or organizations interested in donating to the locker may email Coy at email@example.com.
The community locker is located at 1710 S. Madison St.
When Nash Coy was ordered to rework the run-down Little Free Library in Heekin Park, he was inspired by Noname, a book group that believes “building community through political education is crucial for our liberation,” to create a community locker for the homeless population in Muncie.
“When you have nothing, everything is essential,” said Coy, 2020 Ball State human rights and intersectionality graduate.
More than 5,000 homeless people reside in Indiana, according to the 2020 U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness report, which is nearly one percent of the state’s population.
Coy created a community locker to combat the stigma around homelessness in the community.
Coy started work as the general office manager at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Muncie in May 2021. He was directed by his boss, Jason Newman, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club, to “rework” the Little Free Library adjacent to the building.
Newman had installed the post himself.
“That reinforces the idea of finding someone who actually knows what they’re doing to do a piece of work,” Newman said.
The library was poorly maintained because it was outside, Coy said.
Instead of reworking the library like Newman suggested, Coy introduced the idea of creating a community locker just one week after he started his position.
Newman said he was grateful for Coy’s idea and enthusiasm, and since Newman had installed the Little Free Library himself, he was excited to see the project continue to evolve.
“It is my hope and expectation that every person who comes to work at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Muncie does so because they want to positively impact the lives of our kids, and Nash showed me that that was his interest in working here,” Newman said. “I look forward to more ideas in the future.”
Coy hired a contractor to dig a hole and pour concrete into it, which took about two months.
The biggest challenge Coy said he faced was obtaining a locker. After two unsuccessful orders, the third locker was drilled into the concrete last August.
“The installation process was mainly delayed because of issues getting the locker,” Coy said. “It took three separate orders from two separate companies for one to finally go through and arrive.”
People are given an awning above the locker for weather coverage, a motion sensor light and an unlockable latch on the door to keep it shut. There is also a camera above the locker to protect the users.
“Most people have a stigma from society that it’s their fault,” Coy said. “They feel kind of embarrassed. Most people come to the locker when we’re not open, so I wanted to try and make this locker as accessible as possible.”
At the end of September 2021, the locker was installed and Coy bought the locker’s first pair of socks with private funding and placed them into the locker. The Muncie community has continued to keep the locker full ever since, Coy said.
Organizations that have donated to the locker include the Muncie Mission, The Hope House, Common Way Church and Target.
“It’s very important to me that this is actually a mutual aid program,” said Coy.
“Everyone grows up around unhoused people,” said Coy. “This is not a new problem.”
Coy has advertised the locker through flyers and business cards, while organizations throughout the community have also helped spread the word. Coy said he is not shy about asking for donations and support.
“I will show up to your community event and ask for extra items like socks or clothing items,” Coy said. “We have partnerships in multiple places.”
Neighbors and organizations have donated socks, hygiene products, water bottles, diapers, tampons, T-shirts, miscellaneous clothing items, hand warmers, food items and blankets.
Jeremy Neckers, administrative pastor at Common Way Church, said the church was happy to support the locker. Community service, especially providing essentials, is a way for the church to live out its mission, he said.
“Nash explained what the Boys and Girls Club was hoping to accomplish with the community locker,” Neckers said. “We think they do great work, and if we can help them even in this small way, we are more than willing.”
Because of the way the locker is planted, the plan is that it will stay, Coy said.
“I didn’t want this locker to be entrapped,” Coy said. “This is a space that is all theirs. All are welcome. Come as often as you want. You’ll never be punished for being here.”
Coy fills up the locker each Monday through Friday with new donated items.
In addition to items, Coy fills a folder inside the locker with laminated cards that lists resources related to free housing, hot meals and food for people in the community. He wants to combine all resources and make sure people get “consequential help.”
“I’m in a position to help people,” Coy said, “and if I don’t do that, I’m failing.”
Newman admits the community locker attracts more people than the Little Free Library had.
“I do think more people are coming to the community locker, but some of that is also that we’ve made more of an effort to track what we are giving away as opposed to the Little Free Library where people would come and take books, and some would drop books off,” said Newman.
Newman recognizes how important the locker is for families that take use of it.
“Any time that we can help our kids, or families who are struggling, even if just while out in the park and in need of a diaper change for their young one, is a positive,” Newman said. “It is also gratifying that almost all of the supplies in our community locker have been donated to us, either by individuals or partner organizations, so that we can continue this service, even though it is not a core function of our mission.”
Even though Coy was initially nervous about the project, he is confident about its future now.
“I thought ‘What if I install this and it goes untouched?’” Coy said. “That was not the case. It has not gone two days without being empty.”
Contact Tori Smith with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tori_ncl_writer.