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Blessing Boxes benefit communities

Broxton United Methodist Church may be a small church in a small town, but the congregation's generosity knows no bounds.

Broxton UMC is just one of a handful of South Georgia United Methodist Churches who have embraced a grassroots movement to address food insecurity by installing Blessing Boxes, tiny pantries filled with donated food, toiletries and hygiene items, and other necessities.

Jerry Hudson first got the idea for Broxton UMC's Blessing Box after seeing a Little Free Library in a state park. He thought it was a good idea and something a church could try, but with food instead of books.

24.5 percent of Coffee County's population live below the poverty line, and hunger is a problem statewide, with 1,561,360 people struggling just in Georgia, according to Feeding America.

Clay Brown, a member of Whigham UMC​, stands outside the church next to the Little Free Pantry he built and installed as his Boy Scout Eagle Scout project.

"It's a simple way to solve a temporary need," Hudson says of the box, which is filled with non-perishable food, canned goods, a few books, Upper Room devotionals, New Testament Bibles, a few small toys and baby clothes, paper towels, toilet paper, and small toiletries.

"There's a hunger problem state wide, but I think what sells a lot of people on it is that it cuts through a lot of the red tape on both ends," Hudson said of the Blessing Box. "It takes some of the embarrassment out of asking for food; it's not easy asking for help sometimes."

People can drive or walk up to the Blessing Box, Hudson says, and take whatever they need, whether it's one can of food, a few items, or everything in the box.

"This gets rid of all of the stigma, any judgment," he said. "We have an unfortunate tendency to demonize a lot of folks and make assumptions. With this it's just there and available. If they want one can of corn, that's great. If they need everything in the box, that's okay, too."

Nearly a year and a half ago the Bricklayers Men's Group of Bethel Brick United Methodist Church in Sylvania built and dedicated their Blessing Box. The box has been a blessing to the congregation and the community, said Rev. Kitty Newton, pastor of Bethel Brick UMC, and is just one more way for the congregation to love and support those who live and work nearby.

Arco United Methodist Church's Blessing Box is usually pretty bare each Sunday when members check it, says Rev. Wesley Deverger, and that tells the congregation that it's being used regularly.

Rev. Deverger and members of the Brunswick congregation have built relationships with neighborhood residents and have asked their needs to get a feel for what should be included in the church's Blessing Box. Members of the local Gideons International association keep the box stocked with New Testament Bibles.

In Whigham, there are no full-time feeding programs during the summer or over the weekends, says 18-year-old Cairo High School graduate, Clay Brown. A member of Whigham UMC, he decided that his Eagle Scout project would help address that need. He built and installed the two-foot-by-three-foot boxes and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, Brown said. The pantry is being used frequently, more than he expected.

"You don't have to do something huge …. (to help). You can just go around to houses giving canned goods to people. It's as simple as that."

By Kara Witherow, Editor

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.