Blessing box serves people in need

Vicki Davies, executive director of St. Luke Community Clinic, puts packages of beans and pasta inside the blessing box outside the clinic located along North Royal Avenue in Front Royal. The blessing box allows people to place food and hygiene products inside the box and those in need can stop and help themselves to the items. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Carol Vorous was on Facebook one day when she came across the concept of a blessing box, a  wooden box that people put outside and fill with nonperishable goods that people in need can take anonymously at any time of the day.

Vorous liked the idea so much that she worked on setting up her own blessing box, which is at St. Luke’s Community Clinic in Front Royal. And now, she’s hoping to see more of these boxes in the area.

“I’ve actually been contacted by a few people,” Vorous said.

After seeing the Facebook post, Vorous said she looked into zoning regulations to figure out where in the area she might be able to build a blessing box. She eventually found a willing participant in the St. Luke’s Community Clinic.

Vorous said she was especially attracted to the free clinic in Front Royal because it already has a food and clothing donation program, called the Congregational Community Action Project, operating in its basement.

“I know that just in dealing with different organizations, it …seems that they help people a lot,” Vorous said.

But the Congregational Community Action Project has limited hours.

“Here, people could access [the blessing box] day or night,” Vorous said.

That distinction, she said, has allowed people to continue using the box.

After getting St. Luke’s approval to install the blessing box, Vorous approached Jim Coats, a local resident who does a lot of handy work, and asked him if he would build the box. He agreed, and she gave him a picture of the one she’d seen on Facebook.

Within about three weeks, he had the blessing box built.

“It [turned out] exactly like the picture I sent him,” Vorous said.

Since then, Coats said he’s followed the blessing box closely on Facebook.

“I’ve kind of watched it blossom,” he said.

He’s followed it as people in the community have stepped forward, wanting to help. The manager at the Shop ‘n Save in Front Royal set out a cart where people in the store could donate items they bought in the store. Others have donated items.

“It’s like a magnet, a community magnet,” Coats said. “And anything that brings a community together can’t be a bad thing.”

At St. Luke’s Community Clinic, Vicki Davies, the executive director, said nurses have donated toiletries and clothes they’ve found on sale. She said she regularly checks to make sure the blessing box is mostly full.

Doing this has given her a sense of the amount of food that gets taken from the blessing box.

“It was full on Thursday and when we came in [on Monday], it was empty,” Davies said.

She does not know who takes the food, but her office window overlooks the box, so she can tell that word of it has gone around.

“You’ll see people at random stop and put things in it,” Davies said. “Or people at random stop and take things out of it. So it’s been kind of fun to sit in here watching that.”