BUCKHANNON — Count Buckhannon’s blessing boxes and as of Tuesday, you’ll count five.
The city’s fifth blessing box was installed at Hinkle Drive Housing Authority Tuesday afternoon at a special dedication attended by West Virginia Wesleyan College officials and the brains behind the blessing boxes, resident Nancy Shobe.
In January of this year, Shobe and the city partnered to undertake the blessing box project. The idea behind the blessing boxes – which read “Take what you need, leave what you can, above all, be blessed” – is to provide food, household items, toiletries and other necessary goods to families and children in need. People are invited to donate or take items as they wish or need. Prior to Tuesday, the city had installed blessing boxes in four locations – Jawbone Park, the Living Word Church of God on Thurman Avenue, South Buckhannon Mission Church on Marion and Randolph streets and Brushstroke Ministries on Kanawha Street.
Wesleyan students raised just over $300 to pay for the new Hinkle Drive Authority Housing blessing box, as well as one that will soon be installed on the college’s campus; blessing boxes cost $154 each.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, Robby Quarles, Wesleyan’s director of multicultural programs and services, said students wanted to undertake a project that would have lasting benefits for the people of Buckhannon.
“Every year for the past three years, we’ve picked a service project at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and the students wanted to do something that was more sustainable project, something that would help people more than one time,” Quarles said. “This will help people every single day for a very long time. We’re excited that this one is here, and we’re excited to serve the community at the college.”
Rev. Chris Scott, director of spiritual and religious life at Wesleyan, blessed the boxes, while Shobe offered a few thoughts of her own about the continued need for them in the community. She thanked Quarles, Scott and director of campus life, Alisa Lively, for supporting the students in their endeavor to raise money for the boxes and collect items to fill them with.
“I think that this is just great,” Shobe said. “There is definitely a need in the community. When we put things in them, everything is taken from them when we go back and check – there is a need.”
Shobe said the blessing boxes are convenient because the goods they contain are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Places like the Salvation Army and Upshur Parish House are great, but they’re closed at night,” Shobe said, “but these are nice because if a little kid is hungry at 9 o’clock at night and their parents don’t have anything, they can come to the blessing box and get something so that child’s tummy is full before he falls asleep.”
Anyone who wants to help is invited to purchase goods for the blessing boxes. Useful items include peanut butter, canned goods, dry soup mixes, mittens, hats, toothpaste/toothbrushes and other toiletries as well as household items like dishwashing detergent, Shobe said.
“While you’re at the grocery store, it’s easy to just pick up a few extra canned goods,” Shobe said.