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Giving and receiving: Community members join forces at the Blessing Box

November 13, 2017 - 1:00am

WAIMEA — At the east end of Church Row along Mamalahoa Highway, Mary Kay Carvalho and other community members can be spotted regularly stocking the new Blessing Box with shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, baby wipes and other nonperishable items.

Resembling an old-fashioned food safe, it sits in front of New Hope church. Sprouting from an idea Carvalho first had nearly a year ago, it came to fruition in September when she joined forces with Pastor Sioni Tilini and his wife, Margaret.

Although Carvalho is not one of their church members, the three residents share a common goal.

“My son and husband built the box a year ago but didn’t finish the roofing until just recently and painted it,” she said. “I had approached several other locations in town to put the Blessing Box, but was turned away over fear of vandalism, theft and the types of people it could attract.”

Pastor Tilini wasn’t concerned.

“He was so open to letting us have the box on this property, without questions,” Carvalho said. “I was so excited because I felt his presence about helping. I didn’t get that from others. We’re so grateful.”

At most food banks, those wanting to partake must write down their name, and can only visit certain hours. The Blessing Box is accessible 24/7 and open to all.

“It’s right to help people,” Pastor Tilini said. “Here, anyone can come whenever they want and without any questions or judgment. They can take what they need, and it’s not just for homeless people. It’s a way for community members to share with each other.”

The Blessing Box’s motto is, “take what you need and leave what you can.”

Carvalho came up with the idea last year after a Facebook posting caught her eye.

“I don’t go on Facebook very often, but one day I saw a little boy built a box with his dad to put things in for the homeless people in his neighborhood. It just touched my heart to see people doing something like this,” she said. “That’s what made me think that we needed something like that in my town, because many people here need help and are so proud they don’t want to ask for help.”

Carvalho sought advice from North Kohala residents who launched Little Free Pantry earlier this year, a food box idea based on similar philosophies.

“The Blessing Box will teach our community how to give,” Pastor Tilini said. “An honor system has been missing here.”

Margaret and Carvalho are continuing to spread the word with flyers, hoping to attract other Waimea congregations to join their effort. They also plan to post information in public areas such as grocery stores, senior centers, coffee houses and food courts to encourage other residents to participate.

Carvalho’s aim is to always keep the box full.

“My grandkids are very excited to be a part of this. Every time we pass by the Blessing Box they want to stop and put something in it,” she said. “It can be filled by anyone in our community as part of this blessing to others.”

Carvalho can personally relate to those benefited by the Blessing Box.

“At one time in my life, when I had four kids, my husband and I were laid off from a business that folded. We had to get food from the church,” she said. “I know what it feels like when you don’t have the necessary things, so it really touched my heart to do this. I’m just so excited and grateful to see the Blessing Box in action now, and for Margaret and Sioni’s help.”

Carvalho’s long-term goal is that the box idea will expand islandwide.

“I would love to see this everywhere, Hilo and different places on the island,” she said. “If we start something like this maybe somebody might do the same where they live, and we can help them.”

Info or questions: Call Mary Kay at 987-5610 or the New Hope church office at 885-5510.

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