In September of 2020, The News-Gazette reported on the new orange box that was mounted on the Southwest corner of Meridian Street and Franklin Street. This was the first of what is hoped to be many Blessing Boxes located in Randolph County. The box was temporarily moved from its original location to be “more convenient and more discreet” explained Brody Tarter, owner of the building and sponsor of the box. In December the box was relocated around the corner from its previous location. The box now can be found in the 200 block of West Franklin Street right off the Randolph County Courthouse square.
The Blessing Box is a small orange structure where people leave donated goods for others to pick up anonymously. Located in a common area, people fill them with items that will help those in need, in this case, non-perishable foods. The idea may have originated with Jessica McClard of Fayetteville, Arizona, who started her Little Free Pantry in March of 2016. She was out jogging when she started thinking about the Little Free Library that she always passed, and sometimes borrowed from. She wondered why the concept had “gone viral,” and decided that it allows people to practice neighborliness.“The fact that it also addressed a larger social issue, literacy, was secondary,” she said. “I was waiting in my car for my youngest daughter after school when I decided that I could adapt the concept to address food insecurity.”
The Idea soon spread. Maggie Ballard saw a simple idea on social media in August of 2016. She shared the photo with her son, Paxton, then age six, and they both felt that their house would be the perfect place for a Blessing Box to fill with non-perishable food and hygiene products for those in need.
Shortly afterwards they enlisted the skills of a handy friend who built the first Blessing Box. Maggie and Paxton placed it in their front yard and painted it bright red, their favorite color. Next, they filled it with food and personal hygiene products, it’s been stocked by donations ever since. That was October 2016.
Fast forward to 2020, there are currently 75 Blessing Boxes in Kansas, and five more located in other states! Maggie and Paxton’s goal continues to be adding new locations across the United States. All that is needed it the same passion and love to help feed those in need, via sponsorship of a Blessing Box.
The local boxes are a part of the Radiant H.O.P.E Ministry of the Radiant Lighthouse Church in nearby Greenville, Ohio. H.O.P.E. stands for Helping Out People Everywhere. There are about a dozen such boxes in neighboring Darke County. Individuals, businesses, and organizations can sponsor boxes in their local communities. This Blessing Box is the first of the Church’s Blessing boxes in Indiana, is continues to be sponsored by the RE/MAX Evolve Real Estate operated by Tarter. Union City also has a Blessing Box there. It currently sits on the ground in front of the Roots Restaurant on Howard street. There is also a box of this type located in Saratoga but it is privately stocked and not affiliated with the Radiant Ministry.
“With the recent pandemic, many people are struggling to make ends meet. Some people are too proud to go to a food pantry, this gives them a way to get food anonymously,” previously stated Tarter. “The boxes are a great way to teach our young to give back to those in need,” said Wes Lynch, Pastor of the Radiant Lighthouse Church. “The other day, I was in the grocery store with my nine year old son and he told me that he’d like to get a box of macaroni and cheese to put in the Blessing Box,” he added. Laura Turner of Radiant H.O.P.E. said, “the Blessing Boxes are a great opportunity to to show love to those in need.”
When the box was out of service, The News-Gazette and Tarter received several calls from curious citizens wondering what happened to the box as they wanted to replenish it with more items. Being located directly down the street the staff at The News-Gazette often sees patrons pulling up and taking items up to the easily obtainable small box. There are also times that it can be viewed as bare but in a day or two you will find it’s stocked full again.
In speaking with Tarter there are times he is concerned about the quantity of food in the box. Also there are times when someone comes up to the box and finds it full and there is no place for them to place the overflow of items. To ensure that the box continues to be regularly stocked, The News-Gazette will begin taking and housing donations at their location at 224 W. Franklin in downtown Winchester. By opening up their location, The News-Gazette can house several items and easily fill the box when the need is there.