Mandy Stewart never expected her small gray container to make large waves in Lula.
In late June she placed a “Blessing Box” outside Amanda’s Farm to Fork, welcoming people to take what they need of the many food and hygiene products, but also asking others to contribute what they can.
"CBS46 News and CNN contacted us,” Stewart said. “It’s been crazy. I’m one that doesn’t like the spotlight a whole lot, but I’m very glad that the word is getting out about the Blessing Box. That’s exciting.”
Less than a week after launching, Stewart said the project received an abundance of donations and even sparked a new initiative called Love Your Neighbor Ministries.
"God kept giving me a burden after the Blessing Box to do more for the community,” she said. “I just began to pray and ask God, ‘What is it you’re wanting me to do?’ That’s where Love Your Neighbor Ministries was born.”
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.
Right now, they are in the process of replacing the small gray box with a larger one because the current one is no longer large enough. Over the past week Stewart said she has witnessed many of senior citizens using the box as well as children. She said they mostly take hygiene items like deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste and easy-to-open non-perishable goods like soup and canned meat.
Stewart is also establishing a mobile clothing closet to park around Hall County. People would be able to walk into the trailer and take whatever items they need.
On Sunday, July 26, Stewart took the ministry to downtown Lula. Standing outside at picnic tables, she passed out free sack lunches with her husband to anyone who wanted a meal. Stewart said they plan to extend this service once a month.
“To me, my neighbor is not just a person who lives next door,” she said. “To me, anybody I come in contact with is my neighbor. I want people to know that God loves them and that he has a purpose and plan for them.”
Those who want to donate to the Blessing Box can drop their items from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, by Amanda’s Farm to Fork, located at 5955 Main St. In Lula. Stewart said its current needs include non-perishable pantry items and canned goods.
For other donations, contact Stewart via Love Your Neighbor Ministries’ Facebook page.
Whether someone accepts free food or clothing, at the end of the day, Stewart said she wants them to leave with something more.
“I hope that through this ministry we will get to show people unconditional love,” she said.