Take What You Need, Leave What You Can @lilnodacupbrary


“We are always trying to do what we can, even in small ways” says NoDa resident Brenna Johnson. Brenna and her husband Alexis moved to NoDa in 2015 and settled on Holt Street. They were in grad school in Miami when they visited Charlotte. They checked out NoDa, as many do, while dining at Cabo Fish Taco and fell in love with the neighborhood. Brenna discovered the existing free little libraries in the neighborhood and decided she wanted to place one in front of her home. The planets aligned when they were at a NoDa Brewing arts market and met Tyler Coleman with Coleman Customs. “He built the library and did such a wonderful job, and in his own way has contributed to our community.”

Brenna and Alexis then came up with an idea for a dual library and pantry, for which they coined the term, “cupbrary.” What was clear within minutes of speaking to Brenna was the heartfelt connection to our community plus passion and great ambitions for this tiny little box.

The first finished cupbrary was installed in late January. They did some homework on what to stock for the pantry, in addition to books on the “-brary” side, and focused on things that are not covered by assistance programs. This includes items deemed “luxury” items, that to the average NoDa neighbor would seem quite ordinary: toothbrushes and paste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and even little things like bubbles for kids. Brenna says, “It will be a learning process to figure out what people need from this special box.”

Based on almost a month of activity, Brenna notes that the pantry items have received a lot of use, which makes her both happy and sad. “There is absolutely a need for this pantry, and there are neighbors of ours that are quietly in need. I think it must take a lot of courage to ask for help, and that’s a huge step for a lot of people. I hope the pantry is making it a little easier for someone to get assistance, even in such a small way.”

If you are inclined to help out, here is what Brenna feels will be valued (Items should ideally be small and individually packaged or repacked in baggies to fit):

  • pre-packed ziplock bags with travel sized toiletries (shampoo, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, lotion)
  • single rolls of toilet paper
  • small cans of juice
  • hotel-sized shoe shine kits
  • single packets of laundry detergent
  • small boxes of pads/tampons
  • small cans of pet food
  • children’s and young adult books for the -brary side
  • school supplies

Have questions for Brenna? You can get her at the Instagram handle @lilnodacupbrary or you can PM her on Nextdoor.