For years now, free little libraries have been popping up on front lawns across the country, promoting literacy and bringing communities together through a unique book sharing system. One Wichita woman, Maggie Ballard, has taken the colorful concept a step further by replacing the books with things like food, toiletries, and other necessities. Referred to as a Blessings Box, the pop-up repository invites members of the community to “take a blessing when you need one, leave [a] blessing when you can.”
Brightly painted red and propped up by a post, the Blessings Box proudly sits in Ballard's front yard. The box is continuously well-stocked with groceries, from dried pasta and canned goods to toothbrushes and feminine hygiene products. At first, Ballard and her son, Paxton, were solely responsible for replenishing the supplies. As word spread, however, charitable locals have begun donating goods themselves, emphasizing the project's community-based premise and validating Ballard's efforts. “I felt like this is something that I could do,” she told NPR. “Something small that you know, would benefit so many people so long as the word got out about it.”
In addition to helping others and uniting her neighborhood, Ballard views the Blessings Box as an important teaching tool for Paxton. Although most people who utilize the Blessings Box discreetly do so in the middle of the night, Paxton monitors the inventory each day, and keeps an eager eye out for visitors. “My son is 6 years old, so it gives him a little chore to kind of watch it and see what comes and goes and who comes and goes, and maybe learn a little lesson from it.”
Ballard's Blessings Box is not the first public pantry to make headlines. The Little Free Pantry, a similar miniature food bank, popped up last year in Arkansas and, since then, numerous likeminded philanthropists have installed their own versions. Learn how to make your own on the Little Free Pantry website.