What started as a little wooden container filled with goods in Lula, has transformed into a community-wide initiative.
In June 2020, Mandy Stewart gathered up dozens of nonperishable foods and hygiene items, packed them into a “Blessing Box,” which she placed outside Amanda’s Farm to Fork off the town’s Main Street. The structure welcomed people to take what they needed, but also contribute what they could.
Less than a week after launching, Stewart said the project received an abundance of donations and even sparked a new program called Love Your Neighbor Ministries.
Stewart runs the ministry with her husband Eric, who serves as the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Lula. She said their goal is to “love God and love others” in the community.
Nearly nine months later, Stewart said the Blessing Box has not only expanded its reach, but grown in both users and donors.
“Through the box, we’ve been able to meet with several homeless people and share the Gospel with them,” she said.
Two weeks ago, Stewart said a member of her church built a larger box for the initiative, one that could hold clothing in addition to food and hygiene products. This container has replaced the original gray one outside Amanda’s Farm to Fork. In the fall of 2020, she said a second Blessing Box was added outside Lula Pharmacy on Banks Street. People also have the option to donate items at Love Your Neighbor Ministries’ green drop-off box at 6217 Main St. in Lula.
Over the past year, Stewart said she has witnessed people of all ages use the Blessing Box, including senior residents and children.
“One of the things that really breaks my heart is when you see kids coming up to the box by themselves, knowing that they’re hungry,” she said. “Even though they’re in need, some will bring something. They’ll say, ‘I put something in the box.’”
Amanda Browning, owner of Amanda’s Farm to Fork, said she sees families and individuals pass by her restaurant to donate or take items from the Blessing Box. She said several young girls in Lula regularly check the container to keep it organized and clean.
“It’s a great thing, and it’s able to provide to so many different families,” Browning said. “It has really created in the Lula area a wonderful outreach. I think anybody in their own way would like to contribute to the area, and because of that, they’re able to.”
At the moment, Stewart said the boxes are not in need of clothing donations; however, the containers could always use more nonperishable foods and hygiene products like soap, deodorant, toothpaste and feminine care items. If someone would like to contribute to the initiative, Stewart asks that they email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a list of needed donations, or place items in one of the boxes or the green drop-off container.
For more information and updates on the Blessing Box, visit Love Your Neighbor Ministries’ Facebook page.