Kindhearted Laois child opens a tiny free shop for her neighbours

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Laois child Louisa Kelly aged 8 has opened a miniature shop outside her home to help and connect with her neighbours during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Helped by her parents and her little sister, Wendy, 4, Louisa has painted up an old dolls house, filled it with food and treats, essentials and books to give away, erected outside their home in Ballintubbert.

The family launched into their little project in October, creating its own Instagram account, @TheLittleFreeShop and Louisa officially opened it on November 8.

It has taken off both online and in reality, with Louisa exchanging letters in it from local children and local people giving donations for the shop. 

Louisa told the Leinster Express why she opened her teeny tiny shop which she is busy keeping stocked.

"It makes me feel happy to know that I'm helping the community and I'm very proud that people are using it. I enjoy checking it after school and it's exciting that I've made a few pen pals because of it. It feels good to do good." 

"Louisa thought lockdown might be difficult for some people in the community; whether they might not be able to get to the shops or they might feel a bit isolated and she wanted to help in some small way and maybe even get a pen pal or two from the neighbouring children," said her mother Emily Kelly.

The Kelly's hope The Little Free Shop will act as a fun means of supporting each other and connecting with their neighbours during lockdown and beyond.

Louisa is in 3rd class in Carlow Educate Together National School and Wendy attends Ardreigh Childcare Centre and Montessori in Athy. 

Emily is delighted at the new friends and community support that the shop has created.

"We have had a brilliant online response to The Little Free Shop on Instagram with lots of people sharing our story and leaving kind and supportive comments. I think everyone likes to discover good news, especially now! The local children are leaving letters for Louisa and receiving letters back - children she didn't know before.

"We have connected with our neighbours, lots of them are using it, and they tell us how delighted they are to have something like The Little Free Shop in our community. People have been so generous, donating games, books and food items.

"Anything that is too big for the shop we are boxing up and delivering to local charities and schools and running instagram competitions too. We are so excited for lockdown to be lifted to see how many people travel to visit it," she said.

The shop was once the girls' dollhouse.

"We are a fairly creative family and love painting and crafting so we gave it a lick of paint and some love and details like wallpaper and antique door knobs etc. My husband works in maintenance for a healthcare company and has two decades of construction experience behind him so he built the frame and the sign, put perspex in the windows and secured the structure in the ground. It was a team effort and we have loved every minute of it!," Emily said.

Readers can follow The Little Free Shop on Instagram at @thelittlefreeshop.  They can also send emails at thelittlefreeshop@gmail.com and the location is Ballintubbert, Co. Laois R14CX70 , marked on Google Maps.