By Paula Schriemer
Generous Hands provides food, grocery vouchers, school supplies and menstrual products for families in Vicksburg. The pandemic has increased the need for food and presented obstacles to food distribution. In order to overcome these barriers, we have adapted the way we operate and are launching a new program called “The Blessing Box”.
The Blessing Box concept (also termed Little Free Pantry) is a take-off on the “Little Free Library” idea in which volunteers place and tend a “library” to encourage the sharing of books among neighborhood friends. Several of these libraries operate in Vicksburg already.
As explained on their website littlefreepantry.org, “Jessica McClard launched the grassroots mini-pantry movement in May 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when she planted the Little Free Pantry Pilot, a wooden box on a post containing food, personal care, and paper items accessible to everyone all the time, no questions asked. She hoped her spin on the Little Free Library concept would pique local awareness of food insecurity while creating a space for neighbors to help meet neighborhood food needs. A little over a month later, Crystal Rock Cathedral Women’s Ministries planted a Blessing Box in Ardmore, Oklahoma. By August 2016, the movement was global. Throughout the US and internationally, the grassroots mini-pantry movement continues growing and moving. Whether a need for food or a need to give, mini pantries help feed neighbors, nourishing neighborhoods.”
Currently, littlefreepantry.org provides a listing for the location of over 1800 Little Free Pantries in the U.S., allowing easy access for people in need.
In that same spirit, Generous Hands has begun providing non-perishable food as well as hygiene items (including shampoo, soap, toothbrushes/toothpaste and toilet paper) in our first Blessing Box. Local volunteer and woodworker, Larry Forsyth, assembled this sturdy box and installed it in front of Generous Hands and South County Community Services’ location at 606 Spruce St in early March. It is labeled with the Little Free Pantry motto: “Take what you need, give what you can.” Supplies are replenished daily.
A second Blessing Box will be opening soon at Portage Terrace off Portage Road. Sheri Louis, executive director of Generous Hands, notes, “We are so excited to launch the Blessing Box program. We hope this will be a way for our neighbors in Vicksburg to access nutritious food when they need it.” Additional locations are being considered as the program expands.
If you would like to help with the Blessing Box program, or have ideas for new locations for Blessing Boxes, please contact Sheri Louis at 269-370-7965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.