by Katie Dahlheim
In some cities they are called Little Free Pantries and in others the name Blessing Boxes has been used. We do like to bless things in the South, so our project will be called the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project.
What is a Blessing Box?
A Blessing Box is an anonymous donation site for non-perishable food items, toiletries and small baby care items. There’s only one rule: Leave what you can, take what you need.
I read news stories in other cities about folks putting these boxes at their homes, but I did not think that my own house on a cul de sac on James Island was a good location. So instead I began an effort to create a network of Blessing Boxes in the greater Charleston area.
How we got started in the Lowcountry
With the help of some friends and my husband, I built four Blessing Boxes out of old cabinets I was given or found at the Habitat ReStore. After a bit of Facebook networking, I found four locations – one in West Ashley, one downtown, one on Wadmalaw Island and the fourth in Ravenel.
Around the same time, my friend Aisha Miller set one up near her house in North Charleston. Since I’ve created the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project Facebook page, another person has contacted me and said she’s making her own box to put in St. Stephen.
We are spreading kindness
What if one person comes and takes all the items? This is the most common question I have been asked, and my answer is well, then he must have needed them! It’s not for the donor to judge who needs help the most. Once you’ve decided to donate items, you won’t know who got them out of the Blessing Box or what they used them for – nor should it matter.
We are spreading kindness, not placing a value on another person’s struggles. These boxes are intended to help folks who are food insecure, like the family who had an unexpected medical bill or the young person working two jobs and experiencing a major car problem.
What you can do to help
I am keeping a running list of all the locations on the Facebook page so that folks know where to donate and where to go when they need a little help getting dinner on the table. I would love to add more boxes, especially on James and Johns Islands and rural Mt. Pleasant. If you know of a good location, please contact me by clicking on the Send Message button on the Facebook page.
There will be a Construction Day for anyone interested in participating on Sunday, June 4th. My hope is to connect people with the talent to build Blessing Boxes with willing volunteers, sponsors, and people who are willing to host a Blessing Box at their home, business or church. You can participate in Construction Day!
- We are looking for volunteers who would feel comfortable instructing novice builders on how to do basic construction tasks
- sponsors to fund building supplies
- people willing to get to work!
If you are the parent of a youngster, they are also welcome! We will have painting and other kid friendly tasks as well. Plus, it’s never too soon to learn your way around a nail gun!
For those of you who aren’t interested in those options but want to help our project, we have a GoFundMe running to raise money for our construction fund.
Where you can go to donate
Box #1 – 1919 Bolton Street (off of Rivers Ave, across from N Chas Rec Center)
Box #2 – 1622 Mulberry Street (Ardmore neighborhood, West Ashley)
Box #3 – 302 Ashley Ave (downtown, near the Crosstown)
Guidelines on giving
- It is hot in the Lowcountry. Please be mindful that the items may stay in the box for a period of time. Best not to leave things that could explode or will go bad in the heat. If you’re placing your own box, put it in the shade.
- This is not a place for expired food. Please be thoughtful. If you wouldn’t use it yourself, don’t leave it in the box.
- Imagine if you were down on your luck and found a gift card to a gas station or grocery store! Please check the expiration date on gift cards before leaving in box. Handwritten notes spreading our message of kindness to our neighbors encouraged, and a great way to get kids involved too!
- Please no clothing or books. While we think both would be appreciated, the boxes are not big enough to accommodate larger items. Find a Little Free Library, that’s where the books go!
- Toiletries and baby care items are welcome, such as diapers, Band-Aids, toothbrushes, etc.
I believe that people are inherently kind and want to help others, but sometimes it’s difficult to find tangible ways to put that desire into action. This is a local, direct way of helping people in our community. Whether it’s a bag of rice, a picture colored by a child, or a pack of diapers, the recipient’s day will be brighter because of the generosity of a stranger. Thank you!
Katie Dahlheim is a guest writer for the Bugle.