Driving around Winston Salem, one cannot help but notice the extreme need of our neighbors. On almost every corner there is someone in need of help. This can be both overwhelming and defeating, because it seems an impossible task to help everyone. Especially for a small congregation in a small denomination.
But the words of Jesus continue to whisper in our ears…“When I was hungry you fed me.” And so the idea of the Blessing Box was created.
The Blessing Box is a small pantry, about the size of a large kitchen cabinet that sits in front of our church just off the corner of Hawthorn Rd. and Academy St. It is open all the time and always well stocked. Inside the Blessing Box, there is an array of items: nonperishable food items, toiletries, pet food, baby formula, and most recently, a pile of hand knitted mittens, hats and small blankets. There are also bibles and a box for prayer requests.
The Blessing Box has lived up to its name…it is a blessing. But not just for the people who take from it. It has been a blessing to the people who fill it as well. We have found a small way to unite our neighborhood, as everyone in Ardmore knows that we are on the line of the well-off and the desperately in need. So our congregation members and neighbors, have found a very practical way to give back to our neighbors in need. Anyone who serves others knows that it is far better to give than to receive. We have just as many neighbors who take from the Box as we have who give to it. And personal conversations we have had with people taking and giving to the Box have been both enriching and engaging, and have given the church the opportunity to build more relationships with our neighborhood.
When the Blessing Box was being created, we met little resistance. Most everyone saw the importance of the Box. However, there were a few concerns raised. People were concerned about the Box being ransacked, damaged, and misused. It was a risk that we were willing to take, and we can say that we have seen none of this. We have had multiple people come take from the Box out of need, and return to restock it when they could.
Our hope for the Blessing Box is that it continues to bless our neighbors. We are not looking for our pews to be overflowing from putting the Box in our front yard. That was hardly the point. We would love to see the idea of the box catch on and spread. It was constructed by a congregation member and originally stocked by our women’s fellowship. We have a donation box just inside each entrance to the church, so congregation members can bring items for the Box on Sundays. And we have women from the church check it throughout the week to make sure it is well stocked, check prayer requests, and get rid of empty boxes.
If your church is looking for a simple way to bless your neighbors, we encourage you to find a way to do the same. Items we have found that are especially important are toiletries, granola bars, hand warmers, bibles and oatmeal packets. It is always a good idea to put some extra grocery bags in the box as well; this way those who are shopping can carry things more easily. We have also reached out to local organizations who help those in need to create a list of resources to further assist our neighbors.
The Rev. Chaz Snider is pastor of Ardmore Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.