Drive around town and in neighborhoods around Charleston and you will find boxes filled with goods to take. But if you take them you are not stealing, you’re getting a blessing from the Blessing box.
“The end of the month is the hardest time for many families. Studies show adults with food insecurity will skip meals or reduce their portions to provide for children in their homes as they wait for payday. Many food insecure families do not qualify for the assistance of food banks, or are hesitant to turn to food banks for assistance due to the stigma. One “bad month” can be enough to plunge a household into food insecurity. Lay-offs at work, unexpected car maintenance, unforeseen medical bills, or an accident on the job can suddenly force a family to choose between buying food and paying bills. The purpose of our project is to bridge this gap,” founder of the Blessing Box, Katie Dahlheim told BEAU.
Blessing Boxes are anonymous donation sites for non-perishable food items, toiletries, and school supplies. Currently there are 26 active and four additional planned locations. In 2016, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure, equating to 42 million Americans including 13 million children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. The aim of our project is to ease this problem in our community.
Jessica McClard started the first Little Free Pantry in Arkansas. Katie read about her last year and wanted to do something similar but lives at the end of a a cul-de-sac and didn’t think her home would be a good location. So last March, she built four boxes from old cabinets and took to Facebook to find hosts for them in areas with more foot traffic. By April the first few locations were up and running, and since then it has flourished with more than 30 locations while making relationships with all the many amazing people that have come forward to help. Just recently becoming a non-profit.
“Recently someone noticed a woman in a luxury car wearing expensive shoes take several items out of one of our Blessing Boxes. The person observing posted about it on our Facebook page, receiving a few responses about our project overall not benefiting those who “need it most.” This judgement cuts to the heart of our purpose, which is twofold: 1) to spread kindness without judgement and without expectation of acknowledgement; and 2) to fight food insecurity in whatever form it may take. Imagine how hard it may have been for someone who, to an outside observer, appears to have it all but has to rely on the kindness of strangers to feed her family. Maybe she lost her job, maybe her spouse has an illness, maybe her child needs braces, maybe she’s picking it up for someone else – we don’t know and that’s why we don’t judge. Food insecurity is real and it impacts many people who don’t “look poor.” The stigma of needing food and being unable to provide for those you love keeps people from applying for resources. It is the reason this project is anonymous. Kindness without judgement and anonymity for those in need,” Katie explained.
A large force behind this project is to help marginalized community members who, for whatever reason, may not feel comfortable applying for benefit from other sources. Because this is anonymous there are no forms to fill out, no requirements to show your pay-stub, prove your citizenship, check the box of your gender, etc. These blessing boxes have helped many people, especially LGBT homeless youth living in the Charleston Area.
Below are the currently locations of Blessing Boxes as of January 2018.
Box #1 – 1919 Bolton St (N Chas Rec Center)
Box #2 – 1622 Mulberry St (Ardmore, West Ashley)
Box #3 – 302 Ashley Ave (downtown, near Crosstown)
Box #4 – 1389 N Highway 52, Moncks Corner (Living Tees)
Box #5 – 5605 Katy Hill Rd, Wadmalaw Island (Wadmalaw Island Community / Senior Center)
Box #6 – 822 Pinckney St, McClellanville (MCVL Realty)
Box#7 – 310 Porcher Ave, Eutawville (Full Deliverance Gospel Church)
Box #8 – 1125 E Montague Ave (N Chas United Methodist Church)
Box #9 – 828 Folly Rd, James Island (Hair duJour)
Box #10 – 1601 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (Grace UMC Charleston SC)
*Box #11 – COMING SOON to The Bend, N Chas
Box #12 – 2812 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island (Southern Brews Coffee)
Box #13 – 690 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant (Hibben UMC)
Box #14 – 610 N Cedar St, Summerville (behind Oscar’s of Summerville)
Box #15 – 102 Marilyn Street, Goose Creek (Law Offices of DeLuca Maucher)
Box #16 – 3988 Lucian St, 10 Mile, Awendaw
Box #17 – 2704 Saratoga Rd, N Chas (Dorchester Waylyn)
Box #18 – Laundry Matters, 51 Reid Street, Charleston’s Eastside
Box #19 – 1120 Mail Route Road, Bonneau (Victory Baptist Church)
Box #20 – 1615 Charity Church Rd, Huger (Merritt’s Blessing Box)
Box #21 – 7610 Dorchester Rd, N Chas (Second Chance Auto Club)
Box #22 – 1527 Clements Ferry Rd. (St Paul Baptist Church)
Box #23 – Sangaree Library, 595 Sangaree Parkway, Summerville
Box #24 – 102 Sangaree Park, Summerville
Box #25 – 3357 Fairview Drive, Ladson
Box #26 – 1202 Dickson Ave, Hanahan
*Box #27 – COMING SOON to 438 Marketplace Dr, Summerville (Church at Cane Bay)
Box #28 – 209 Mikel Drive, Summerville (Quail Arbor)
*Box #29 – COMING SOON to the Market (by Hardee’s at 165), Ravenel
*Box #30 – COMING SOON to 2037 Bees Ferry Rd. (Star Motor Service)
Words By Jonatan Guerrero-Ramirez