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The concept is straightforward. The box is a miniature food pantry — receiving items from those who want to donate, and offering it to those who need them.
“Whether you’re taking or giving, you can just go to the blessing box,” Espinoza told reporters. “There’s not a lock on it — it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
The idea came to the 46-year-old Army veteran while taking a class on human services at a local community college. Espinoza was surprised when he found out the school had a food pantry for needy students.
“I thought, ‘Man, these adults that are spending time taking classes can’t eat every day. ‘”
Not long after that Espinoza decided to put up his blessing box. He put in the first bit of food himself but hasn’t had to fill it up much since.
“The box itself is for the community and it’s sustained by the community,” he said. “The community, the neighborhood and my block have been really supportive.”
Their support expands beyond food. “We try and put stuff in there that makes sense — toothpaste, toothbrushes, band aids….some soap and shampoo,” Espinoza said.
“We don’t know who uses it — sometimes people feel like they are embarrassed to use the box in the middle of the day,” Espinoza added.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt the box is filling a need. “I woke up recently and I had to put food in [the box] because someone came by and needed food,” Espinoza said.
The success of Espinoza’s blessing box has influenced other member of the community to build one on their lawns as well.
Ultimately, Espinoza hopes that his box and those of others in his town create an atmosphere of support and generosity.
“Watertown, New York, in the next five years, could be known as the city of blessing boxes,” he said.
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