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South Wheeling To Get ‘Blessing Box’

A “blessing box” is coming to the South Wheeling neighborhood this week.

Blessing boxes are outdoor storage closets filled with free food items and hygiene products for those who need them, and the public is encouraged to bring and donate items to the box for its continued use.

The South Wheeling box is the seventh of its kind to be placed in the Wheeling area. It will be opened to the public at 3:15 p.m. Thursday and located outside the Elks Lodge at 4706 Jacob St.

The blessing boxes are provided by the Ohio County Family Resource Network and the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, who partner with local organizations that commit to routine monitoring and stocking of the boxes.

“They look to see that items inside are not expired, and to keep it tidy so people can easily find what they need,” explained Claudia Raymer, executive director of the OCFRN. “Our goal is to have each location self-sufficient, and neighbors helping neighbors.”

Blessing boxes already have been placed at the Valley Grove Community Center, the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department, Bethlehem Elementary School, and at Garden Park in Warwood, as well as outside the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling and Bridge Street Middle School.

Raymer said the boxes are being heavily used, as they are being frequently restocked. Non-food items such as toothpaste and feminine hygiene products are particularly popular, she said.

“We know you can’t buy these items with a SNAP card, and most pantries don’t stock them,” Raymer said. “This helps people to redirect their money. They don’t have to spend it on these things that are expensive, and not readily accessible to them.”

As for donations, the monitors watch to see that food items in the blessings box are not expired.

“We want things that are shelf-stable, and nothing there that needs refrigerated,” Raymer said. “We can’t have fresh fruit or vegetables, but canned items are great.”

Pantry items relied on for cooking at home also are needed, according to Raymer. These can include such things as spices, cake mixes, instant coffees, tea bags, sugar, flour and cooking oil.

She isn’t certain as to the numbers of people using the blessing boxes, or the amount of traffic the boxes see. This is because there are no records of use, and this is by design.

“We want people to know using the blessing boxes really is anonymous,” Raymer said. “This removes some barriers that exist with food pantries.”

The FRN has the resources to place an eight blessings box in a local community, but the location is still being determined, she said.

The project is made possible by grants obtained by the Ohio County Food Security Team.

“This really highlights the incredible things that can happen when people come together for a common goal,” Raymer said.

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