Arvada Press – Shanna Fortier
The outdoor pantry that stands in front of The Rising Church in Olde Town Arvada houses food and toiletry items for people in need.
“It’s kind of like a little free library — take a book leave a book. I love that concept,” said church member Heath Rost, who devised the idea to create the Blessing Box. “It’s an outdoor food pantry — take what you need, leave what you can. It’s for anybody.”
The Blessing Box, erected in front of the church in the beginning of March. It was based on Jessica McClard’s Little Free Pantry, which started in March 2016 in Fayetteville, Arizona.
The Little Free Pantry is for neighbors helping neighbors. In high poverty areas, the pantry is most often for those who are not easily able to meet everyday food and personal needs. In middle-class neighborhoods, the pantry might stock after-school snacks for neighborhood kids.
At The Rising Church, which is located across the street from the Jefferson County Library in Olde Town Arvada, the Blessing Box serves the large homeless population that sleeps on the church property or hang out at the library, as well as Olde Town Arvada visitors.
“It’s not just for the homeless,” Rost said. “If you’re out having a cup of coffee and you want a snack — it’s for you, too. It’s for anybody in the community.”
Barbara Parker, secretary and homeless coordinator at the church, said she’s encouraged to see that people are utilizing the box’s contents.
Parker said she will often see a local teenager, who has a rough home life, take food from the Blessing Box.
“I know there’s probably not food in his house consistently,” Parker said. “It doesn’t seem like much, but when I see that one kid come by, I know he’s eating that day.”
The Blessing Box is an extension of the church’s larger food pantry — which has been serving Arvada for more than 20 years — and holds non-perishable food items as well as personal hygiene products.
It’s a quick turnover, Parker said, noting that the box needs to be restocked daily.
But it’s not just the church providing the blessings. Many community members are also working to keep the box full.
“I see people randomly come and put things in the box — it’s pretty cool,” Parker said. “It’s a community thing. I think there needs to be more of that.”
Rost’s hope is to one day see Blessing Boxes and Little Free Pantries all over Arvada. The box at The Rising is the first of its kind in Jefferson County, but Rost is working with other area churches to make his vision become a reality.