Episode 56: S6E1 – Local Cause, Big Impact
In this episode, Tom Dunlap chats with Peter Burnett, of Burnett and Williams Firm, about his Ampersand Pantry project that collects meals from local restaurants and gives them to families in need during Covid.
The Start of Peter’s Philanthropy Work
Peter Burnett of Burnett and Williams firm in Leesburg, Virginia, has been practicing law for almost 44 years. In that time, he has come to realize the power and importance of community. As someone who owns businesses in his local community, he has come to recognize how the people around him have made him successful.
This sparked a need to give back to his neighbors who struggle.
Little Free Pantry
Peter became inspired by the Little Free Pantries that have cropped up over Virginia, which are similar to the Little Free Library in that anyone can access food items free of charge. He spoke with a local church about setting up a little free pantry on a corner of their lot.
They began giving out food—then Covid hit. They were going to need a larger space and more food.
Ampersand Pantry and Covid
A leader in the community, Peter gathered local donations that would buy meals from struggling restaurants and give them to those in need. His firm, Burnett and Williams, were the first big donors, using Peter’s personal property ownership of a lot to set up a pantry.
While he originally underestimated the demand, he and his volunteers grew to meet that demand, now serving an average of 300 meals a day. Listening to those coming in, Peter and his team began adding items like diapers and pet food to meet other needs.
What surprised Peter the most was how much the community came together to dedicate time, money and energy to the project. Even in the line that formed to receive meals, people put anywhere from a dollar to a few hundred dollars in the donation box.
Total, Peter and his volunteers gave out over half a million diaper and 90,000 meals.
Peter dives into why he believes he was able to rally the entire community to help those in need. While Tom attributes some success to Peter’s reputation, Peter also insists that connecting the local cause with the community was key. Putting food in the mouth of a hungry child that lives only a few doors down from you is a very powerful cause.
Peter also advertised how many meals they had distributed. People would drive by to see how much work Ampersand had done and wanted to join not just the movement, but the momentum of the project.
The Greatest Reward
Peter says that in all of this, practicing kindness is its own reward—he says it is his greatest reward. To give kindness not only does good but feels good. In other words, kindness is a powerful force that benefits both those who give it and those who receive.