BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On one of Buffalo’s darkest days, the country stepped in to help. Donations flooded into Buffalo’s East Side, and a fridge in that area received a lot of attention.

You can find the outdoor fridge less than half a mile from the Tops on Jefferson Avenue. It’s cold 24/7 for anyone who’s hungry to take what they need.

“Community fridges really started popping up during the pandemic as an alternate resource for people in need,” Lauren Nostro said, a lead organizer for Buffalo Community Fridge. “Before we got those stimulus checks, before we really got government support, community fridges became a way that neighbors can take care of neighbors.”

The idea for Buffalo Community Fridge came from a group of community fridges in NYC. The first fridge in Buffalo was turned on in October of 2020.

“We just find that this gets a lot of foot traffic, and a lot of people are in need of food in this area,” Nostro said.

When a gunman killed 10 innocent people at a grocery store on May 14, 2022, the group posted to their popular social media account a Venmo account that people could donate to.

Within days, hundreds of thousands of dollars came flooding in.

“We had people on the ground starting that Sunday,” Nostro said. “People were tabling, dropping off bulk donations… essentially everyone went into crisis mode.”

For about 10 days, they took in and gave out an immense amount of food in the community. They weren’t and still aren’t a 501(c)(3), so group leaders received help setting up a bank account, and got to work spreading out the money amongst other organizations doing good work in town.

“We knew we had a job to do in re-allocating these donations to black-led organizations, other boots on the ground organizations.”

If you scroll down, you’ll find a list of everyone who received money. There were 10 organizations in all that got donations in late summer of last year. In all, Buffalo Community Fridge gave away more than half of what they received. The rest of the money will go toward their own mission.

There are three fridges the organization oversees: the second is on Herkimer Street and the third fridge is on the Buffalo Collegiate Charter School campus.

The mission of the fridges is the same it was in 2020: help feed neighbors who may be struggling.

“Our hope is that the community will make donations to the fridge — take what they need a leave what they don’t,” Tamika Potts said, a lead organizer with Buffalo Community Fridge.

“The greatest need is people,” Lisa Zain said, another lead organizer.

They’re in need of volunteers to help stock the fridges and clean them. If you’re at the grocery store, they ask you to pick up a few extra groceries to stock the fridges. Once you buy food for the fridge and send them your receipt, they’ll pay you back up to $100.

“We love greens, fruits and veggies,” Olivia White said. “That’s really our primary focus, because unlike a food pantry, we’re a fridge so we can store fresh food, it doesn’t all have to be non-perishable.”

Also, Buffalo Collegiate is closing, so they’re hopeful another business in the area of Jewett Avenue, near the Tri-Main building will take over. For more information, click here.

Here’s the list of all organizations that received a portion of the money that was originally donated to Buffalo Community Fridges after the Tops Mass Shooting:

  • Feed Buffalo
  • Candles in the S.U.N.
  • Colored Girls Bike Too
  • Rooted in Love
  • African Heritage Food Co-Op
  • WNY Mobile Ops
  • Open Buffalo
  • Buffalo Go Green
  • Every Bottom Covered
  • Black Love Resists in the Rust