Outside of a restaurant off Main Street in Lula, the best things can come in a small package.
A gray wooden container with the words “Blessing Box” painted in white, invites people to take what they need of the many food and hygiene products, but also “leave what you can.”
The project sparked from Mandy Stewart, a Lula resident and active member of Liberty Baptist Church. Stewart said the Blessing Box was born from wanting to combine her passion for helping others and her gift from God of “finding deals.”
Through couponing and a knack for hunting down sales, Stewart said she has accumulated a stockpile of nonperishable goods and other products for her family. She used a portion of that inventory to jump start Lula’s Blessing Box.
“I wanted to get the community involved in something where they could feel a part of it,” Stewart said. “In a world where there’s so much hate, I just want to spread some love and compassion.”
After seeing other blessing boxes across the U.S. in a Google search, Stewart and her husband Eric, who is the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, set to building the box. They placed it outside of Amanda’s Farm to Fork on June 20, and since then, Stewart said people have contributed nonperishable food and hygiene products like deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
Amanda Browning, owner of Amanda’s Farm to Fork on 5955 Main St. In Lula, said she happily volunteered to host the box outside of her restaurant. Within hours of filming a Facebook Live video about the project, she said the support came flooding in.
"Our area itself is phenomenal for these sorts of things,” Browning said. “We had a really good outpour as far as people wanting to contribute.”
Unlike food pantries, which are only open for certain hours, the Blessing Box is a 24/7 operation. Stewart said there is no limit on what people can take because the community will replenish it regularly.
Only a couple of days since starting the Blessing Box, Stewart said people have started to use its resources.
“It’s open for anybody,” she said. “I want people to see it, and say, ‘It’s OK for me to take out of this.’ If people have the opportunity to give back, leave what you can.”
As more people start taking items from the Blessing Box, Stewart said she’ll develop a better idea of the community’s needs. She plans to update the Lula’s Blessing Box Facebook page with a list of most needed products.
Stewart said she hopes the ministry will inspire other communities around Hall County to establish their own boxes.
“I’m glad we can be a little part of the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how God uses this to reach lives and change our little community.”